appellate court decides that officers’ names in ‘pepper spray cop’ reports must be disclosed

by Tim Phillips

After the November 18, 2011 incident during which University of California Davis police officers were videotaped pepper-spraying demonstrators, the UC Board of Regents commissioned two reports. The reports reviewed the facts leading up to the incident, made conclusions regarding responsibility for the incident, and included policy recommendations to ensure that such an incident wouldn’t happen again. When the reports were issued, on April 12, 2012, the names of more than a dozen UC police officers who planned, participated in, or witnessed the incident were redacted.

The redaction of the officers’ names was the result of litigation by the Federated University Police Officers Association (FUPOA) and John Pike (the “pepper spray cop”), who originally sought to stop the release of the reports in their entirety. After the reports were released, the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee newspapers submitted a series of public records requests for complete, unredacted versions of the reports. On May 29, 2012, the newspapers initiated legal action.

The trial court ordered the release of unredacted reports containing the names of the officers. Yet FUPOA sought review of the trial court’s order. Yesterday an appellate court agreed with the trial court that the identities of the officers named in the reports must be disclosed, because the purpose of the reports was to promote accountability and transparency.

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