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Judge orders most of UC Davis pepper-spray report to be public

March 28, 2012 |  2:54 pm

An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected nearly all attempts by a campus police union to withhold portions of a report on the November pepper- spraying of UC Davis students by university officers.

Judge Evelio Grillo disagreed with all police union assertions that much of the information in the report -– designed to scrutinize the day’s actions and set policy moving forward –- was protected because it contained the same information as an officer “personnel” file compiled for purposes of discipline. He also brushed aside arguments that the 15 to 20 officers named in the report had a constitutional right to privacy.

“The court is not persuaded that either the Legislature or the California Supreme Court intended [the law protecting peace officer information] to apply whenever public entities investigated law enforcement policies, procedures, or actions and to preclude all public entities from disclosing the results of those investigations if they touched on the conduct of individual police officers,” Grillo wrote.

Grillo did, however, grant the campus union’s request that the names of all but two officers referenced in the report be blacked out. He excluded Lt. John Pike, whose image was disseminated internationally on the Internet as he casually doused seated protesters, and UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, who has not sought to hide her identity.
The much-anticipated report –- commissioned by UC officials through a specially convened task force in the controversial incident -– won't be available to the public for at least 21 days, however, as Grillo allowed time for an appeal. Grillo has permitted immediate release of the uncontested portions of the report, but UC officials say they are still unsure whether they will do so because the redactions are extensive and could slant the overall tone.
The Nov. 18 student protest took place as part of the Occupy movement and triggered a UC Davis internal affairs investigation of the officers involved. UC officials confirmed Wednesday that five officers are facing disciplinary probes. (Pike and Spicuzza were among those placed on administrative leave.)

The university separately convened a task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso to make recommendations regarding police procedures in light of the event. Kroll Associates, a security consulting firm, was retained to collect information on the incident and make policy recommendations. 

Only witness officers were interviewed for the report –- not the officers subject to discipline –- and they were granted immunity for their contributions. But the campus police union argued that all discussion in the reports that draws conclusions about the propriety of officer conduct should be sealed. They agreed to the release only those sections that deal with the actions of administrators.
UC General Counsel Charles Robinson said he would consult with Reynoso about whether a report with such extensive redactions should be released within the next 21 days.

Between one-fourth and one-third of the Reynoso report and a little over half of the Kroll report would still be blacked out, he said Wednesday. Reynoso and his task force must decide the releasable portions reflects the document’s true spirit and content, Robinson said.

Attorneys for the Federated University Police Officers Assn. -- which represents Pike and other officers, but not the chief –- said they, too, would consult with their clients before deciding whether to appeal.

Meanwhile, UC officials at a regents meeting Wednesday said they are working to finish a separate report that looks at the best ways to handle campus protests in the  future. 

UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley, who is one of the leaders of that study, told the regents that he expects a draft will be released for public comment next month.  Edley said his report does not investigate the UC Davis pepper-spray incident or the use of batons by UC Berkeley police on demonstrators the same month, although those controversies led to his study. 

Instead, he said his report is “forward looking” and will examine such issues as freedom of expression, police training, de-escalation techniques and develop recommendations for administrators, police and students.

--Lee Romney in Oakland and Larry Gordon in San Francisco