(CN) – Cincinnati police officers who were involved in a shootout with a motorcycle gang should not have their identities disclosed to the local newspaper, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled.
The Cincinnati Enquirer asked the Hamilton County Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus to compel Police Chief Thomas Steicher for records regarding the shootout under the Public Records Act.
Steicher has since been succeeded by James Craig as police chief and as the subject of the lawsuit.
The Iron Horsemen’s tension with local police dates back to the 1980s. One member of the Horsemen threatened officers with a shotgun built into the handlebars of his motorcycle.
Recently, the Detroit Highwaymen rode into town, and a turf war ensued between the two gangs. This resulted in “hostile takeovers” of bars and beatings of opposing gang members.
One of these situations arose at JD’s Honky Tonk bar in September 2010. Fourteen police officers arrived on the scene and the gun battle ensued. Two officers were hurt, and the national enforcer of the Iron Horsemen was killed.
Reporters from the Enquirer sought an incident report and the identity of the two police officers who had been hurt. Steicher refused to divulge the officers’ names, citing the threat of retaliation against the officers and their families.
The newspaper took their case to the appeals court and found no success. In an unsigned opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that the officers’ identities must not be revealed, ruling in favor their constitutional right to privacy.
“The evidence established that the release of the identities of the wounded police officers would place them at risk of serious bodily harm and possibly even death from a perceived likely threat and that the disclosure of their identities was not narrowly tailored to achieve the public purpose of examining the performance of the police,” the justices wrote.