Release names of UC Davis officers in pepper-spraying, judge orders

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012 - 8:23 am

A judge on Tuesday ordered the release of the names of police officers involved in last November's pepper-spray incident on the University of California, Davis, campus.

The order by Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo came in response to a lawsuit filed by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times and reverses the judge's earlier decision to redact officers' names from a report on the incident.

The Federated University Police Officers Association – the union representing campus police officers – had been fighting disclosure of the officers' names, arguing that state law prohibits it and that revealing their identities could expose them to harassment.

But Grillo concluded that the report was separate from any internal affairs investigation into the actions of police officers and is subject to release in full under the California Public Records Act.

"As police officers paid by the public and authorized by the public to exercise authority over individual members of the public, the FUPOA cannot reasonably expect that information about the actions of police officers will be shielded from public scrutiny other than as provided by statute," the judge wrote.

The newspapers sued after University of California officials denied requests under the Public Records Act for the officers' names.

"We're glad the court agrees this information should be available to the public," said Joyce Terhaar, The Bee's executive editor. "We continue to believe one of the most important things we do is to hold public officials and other powerful people accountable for their actions.

"That's why we joined this legal effort, to hold everyone accountable for their part in the pepper-spraying."

The pepper-spraying occurred during a campus protest last fall over tuition hikes and budget cuts, and prompted widespread outcry. Several investigations into the incident were launched, including an independent review overseen by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.

The Reynoso report became the focus of legal wrangling after the police union went to court to oppose the release of officers' names. Grillo eventually allowed it to be released with only the names of two officers – Lt. John Pike and then-Chief Annette Spicuzza – included.

Pike's identity had been widely known since the incident as a result of video footage spread across the Internet that showed him spraying students and protesters. Grillo noted that other officers' identities have become known through other video of the incident.

The 190-page Reynoso report was released in April and was highly critical of university administrators as well as the campus police.

The judge's decision does not mean the UC regents must immediately release the redacted names because he stayed his order through July 27 to give the police union time to file an appeal.

Other reviews of the matter are pending, including internal affairs investigations, a Yolo County District Attorney's Office probe and a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of students who were pepper-sprayed.

Spicuzza, who was suspended shortly after the incident, retired as chief after the report was released.

Pike remains on paid leave pending an internal affairs probe.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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