Court favors release of UC Davis task force report, but without officer names

Courtesy of LA Times

On March 28, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge disagreed with the Federated University Police Officers Association in regards to blacking out parts of the report on last November’s pepper-spray incident at UC Davis. Judge Evelio Grillo ruled against the police union’s arguments that much of the incident report was protected, citing the report’s similarity to reports used in the police personnel files for disciplinary actions. This ruling could change, however, as it is a preliminary injunction and is subject to an appeal.

“UC officials are pleased with the ruling of privacy, and plan to complete the investigation with full public disclosure as soon as possible. We are pleased that Judge Grillo agrees, in almost every respect, with our arguments for full public disclosure of reports from the task force chaired by former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso. While he also ordered names of some police officers in the reports to be redacted, we would like that information ultimately to be made public,” stated UC General Counsel Charles Robinson in a statement dated March 28.

Grillo’s ruling in favor of the report’s release was contested by claims that the decision would be a breach of the 15 to 20 named officers’ constitutional privacy. These concerns were addressed in Grillo’s allowance of all but two police officers’ names to be blacked out. Lt. John Pike, who gained notoriety after videos surfaced of him pepper-spraying sitting protesters, was one of the officers whose names was not withheld. The other was UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza who, by virtue of her public position, did not express any concerns regarding the release of her identity.

The withdrawal of the other officers’ names was prompted largely by the consequences that have arisen due to Lt. John Pike’s name being made known to the public. “After Lt. Pike’s name was public, a person or persons circulated his contact information on the Internet and he subsequently received hundreds of letters, over 10,000 text messages and over 17,000 email messages. Most of these letters and messages were threatening or derogatory,” noted Judge Grillo. “Given this history of threats and harassment, the potential harm to other officers from disclosing their participation in the incident is far from speculative.”

Despite the positive ruling, UC officials have hesitated releasing the uncontested portions of the police report, fearing that edits and missing pages are too extensive to accurately portray the overall tone of the report. “We will confer with Justice Reynoso about when and how the reports will be released to the UC Davis community and the general public. All of us—including Justice Reynoso and UC President Mark G. Yudof—remain committed to full public disclosure and recommendation of the task force,” continued Robinson.

Prior to the legal issues that have postponed the release of the report, UC officials had initially planned for the report to be released on March 6.

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