Thursday, October 2, 2014
S.C. Denies Request to Publish C.A.’s Pepper Spray Opinion
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday denied a request to publish the opinion of the First District Court of Appeal in a case where it ordered disclosure of the names of officers involved in a pepper-spray incident at UC Davis.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, denied the request for publication in Federated University Police Officers Association v. Superior Court (Los Angeles Times Communications LLC). In its decision last May, the First District’s Div. Four said the university must disclose the names of police officers mentioned in a report regarding the Nov. 18, 2011 incident.
That incident, coming amid protests over university tuition hikes as well as the ongoing Occupy protests, went viral on the Internet and led to the resignation of the UC Davis chief of police. The names of the officers were disclosed last month after the Supreme Court set aside its earlier order granting review of the Court of Appeal decision.
The case had been on grant-and-hold status pending disposition of Long Beach Police Officers Association v. City of Long Beach (Los Angeles Times Communications LLC) (2014) 59 Cal.4th 59, holding that the identities of police officers involved in shootings are not categorically exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act.
The dismissal of review, however, precluded last year’s First District opinion from being cited in the future absent the approval of the high court. The parent companies of the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee, along with the ACLU of Northern California, asked for publication, but no justice of the high court voted to grant the request.
The Court of Appeal, in the opinion by Div. Four Presiding Justice Ignacio Ruvolo, said the CPRA did not permit redaction of the officers’ names from the report of an independent task force appointed by UC President Mark Yudof and headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
In the widely viewed videotape, an officer later identified as UC Police Department Lt. John Pike was seen methodically pepper spraying a row of seated nonviolent demonstrators after they refused to disperse.
In response to public outcry, Yudof asked Kroll, a law enforcement consulting company, to prepare “an independent, unvarnished report” about the incident and also appointed the Reynoso task force, which also included a number of members of the university community.
The Reynoso task force issued its 190-page report more than two years ago, declaring that the incident “should and could have been prevented” and blaming “nearly everyone involved,” as Ruvolo put it, including police officers. The names of the officers—other than Pike and then-Chief Annette Spicuzza, whose identities were well-known by that time—were redacted pursuant to a stipulation between the officers’ union and the university, which included an acknowledgment that the university might have to disclose the names later under the CPRA.
In the now-unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeal rejected the argument that exemptions for reports of citizen complaints, and for police officer personnel records, applied. The panel noted that the Reynoso report contained no information about disciplinary proceedings or disposition of citizen complaints against the officers.
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