Report Will Be Released Withholding Officer Names

Reynoso-pepperspray

In the end, attorneys for Lt. Pike and other officers represented by the Federated University Police Officers Association, must have felt that while they could delay the report, they were only forestalling the inevitable.

On March 28, Judge Evelio Grillo rejected arguments from the union’s attorney, ruling, “The Regents are permitted to disclose the entire Report after redacting the names of UCDPD officers as stated above. The Regents must replace the ranks and true names with the common rank of ‘Officer’ and pseudonyms.”

Judge Grillo gave the attorneys 21 days to appeal, but on Monday it was announced that those efforts had been dropped.

According to a release from UC, “The task force rescheduled the public release after attorneys for UC and the police union jointly asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to lift a stay he had imposed.”

Pending the judge’s ruling after a hearing scheduled for this morning, the task force now plans to outline its findings and recommendations to the UC Davis community – students, faculty and staff – on Wednesday, April 11, from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. in Freeborn Hall at UC Davis.

The downloadable task force findings, recommendations and background documents are tentatively scheduled to be available beginning at noon on April 11 at www.ucdavis.edu. A live webcast of the public meeting will also be accessible from the campus home page, and audio will be broadcast live outside Freeborn Hall.

UC’s spokesperson Steve Montiel indicated that the university wanted to make public the substance of the report as quickly as possible.  They were willing to drop an appeal over the names which might have delayed the report.

He said, “An appeal would have tied it up for months… [and] could have dragged on for an unacceptable amount of time, while this agreement would serve the most pressing need – to provide the campus with the fullest possible picture of what happened that day as well as recommendations of how to prevent further occurrences.”

He argued that the names, most of which were only the names of those officers interviewed as witnesses, would not impact the material findings of the report.

Michael Risher of the ACLU, another party to this dispute, indicated to the Vanguard that they would be agreeing to the dismissal of the suit at today’s hearings.

“The ACLU will agree to be dismissing the case [Tuesday],” he said.  This will allow the university and police to enter into agreement to immediately release the report, withholding the names of the police officers with the exception of John Pike and Annette Spicuzza.

Mr. Risher viewed this as a “good thing,” as he has long advocated for “the report to be released as much as possible, as soon as possible.”

At the same time, he wants to make it clear, “That this is not going to in any way affect the right of anyone else, including the ACLU or the media, or any member of the public to attempt to get the names under the public records act.”

“It is certainly my position that the university and the attorneys could not enter into an agreement that would infringe on any member of the public’s right to use the PRA,” he added.

Redacting the Names of the Other Officers

Last month the Vanguard identified UCD Officer Alex Lee as the second pepper sprayer.

In the Vanguard‘s view at this point, and facing a potentially lengthy appeals process, it seems right that the university would take the path to get as much of the report released as possible.

The attorney for the police officers did not go on the record yesterday with the media, however it is widely believed that they saw the handwriting on the wall and believed they would not ultimately prevail.  The action blocking the release of the report gave the appearance that the police had something to hide, which undoubtedly was a blow to them from a public relations perspective.

Nevertheless, the Vanguard believes that ultimately the police officers’ names need to be released.  Anonymity provides a measure of protection for the officers, but it also shields the university from accountability.

The judge granted the preliminary injunction based on what he called “substantial evidence that they are likely to suffer significant harm if their names and identifying information is erroneously disclosed before the case can be adjudicated on its merits.”

Indeed, the judge noted, “Lt. Pike has presented a declaration detailing harassment and threats to him after he was identified as an officer who was involved in the Incident. After Lt. Pike’s name was made 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 the letters and messages where threatening or derogatory. In addition, unidentified persons ordered magazines, products and food for delivery to Lt. Pike’s home.”

Thus, Judge Grillo argued, “Given this history of threats and harassment, the potential harm to other officers from disclosing their participation in the Incident is far from speculative.”

ACLU Staff Attorney Michael Risher noted at that time, “Judges have broad discretion to craft preliminary injunctions to fit the facts as they see them.  I don’t know all of the evidence that the judge looked at, that should become public in 21 days.”

Nevertheless, he felt that the order was overly-broad.  Given the length of time that has passed since the incident, he is not sure that new revelations would bring forth the same level of harassment that Lt. Pike experienced in the days immediately following the highly publicized and volatile incident.

“It’s not clear to me that releasing the names of other officers that weren’t involved in such a notorious way of officer Pike…or didn’t pepper spray anyone but were just witnesses, would subject them to any sort of harassment, particularly now months later after people’s passions have cooled,” he said.

At this point, it would take a public records act request to get the names of the other officers.

In a December 23, 2011 email that the Vanguard acquired via a public records act request, Chief Counsel Steven Drown wrote to Debbie Davis, Editor of the Davis Enterprise, indicating there was a meeting between staff of the Enterprise, along with CalAware’s Terry Franke and UC Davis officials, to “discuss Cory’s request for the name of the second UC Davis Police Department officer who used pepper spray during the November 18, 2011, campus conflict.”

Mr. Drown argued that, under the circumstances of this case, the officer’s name is exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act.

Mr. Drown would argue that “the disclosure of the officer’s name, given other publicly available information, would indicate that the officer is the subject of a University internal affairs investigation concerning the November 18 incident.”  He adds, “It was my view that this information is a confidential personnel record under Penal Code section 832.7 and 832.8, which cannot be disclosed to the public unless a ‘Pitchess Motion’ has been granted by a reviewing court.”

Mr. Drown added, “As you know, the name of one of the officers, Lieutenant John Pike, became widely known due to his identification by onlookers and widely broadcast electronic media. The name of the second officer is not widely known.”

“To disclose the name of the second officer now would disclose the fact that the officer is subject to an internal affairs investigation, which is confidential personnel information exempt from disclosure under the authorities described above.”

Mr. Drown would later indicate to the Enterprise that the names would only be turned over if a judge ordered him to do so.

However, Terry Francke, director of CalAware, told the Vanguard he believes that a good case can be made at this point that the names of officers would not be exempt, but that would depend largely on how a judge interpreted threats against Officer Pike and whether a judge would rule given the passage of time and the calming of tensions, that a clear threat to the safety of the officers outweighed the public’s right to know the names of the officers.

The Vanguard at this point is pondering whether to press this issue in court.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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19 Comments

  1. Neutral

    DMG: [i]The Vanguard at this point is pondering whether to press this issue in court.[/i]

    I really don’t see how you can argue the release of the other “15 – 20” names is either justified or necessary. Then again, given your desire to wipe away any sense of privacy, under any circumstances, for anyone working for the government, I shouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Fight Against Injustice

    I do believe the names of the people who actually were responsible for the spraying and/or ordering the spraying of students who were sitting there should be released. This goes along with being accountable. I don’t think we need the names of all those that were interviewed (the witnesses).

    I still find it curious that people don’t want Alex Lee’s name public. When watching the videos of the incident, it is obvious that there are many cameras taking videos. Alex Lee as well as Lt. Pike must of realized that they were being videotaped. So saying now that you want to remain anonymous when all those cameras were taping you, makes no sense.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Nevertheless, the Vanguard believes that ultimately the police officers’ names need to be released. Anonymity provides a measure of protection for the officers, but it also shields the university from accountability.
    [/quote]

    How so? The university plans to change its policies according to the recommendations made by its own investigating committee, no? There is an internal investigation, no? What more do you want? I would argue there was fault on both sides, and the students who were not blameless here, are going to get off scot free. The officers will most likely be disciplined in some fashion. The university will change its policies. Anything beyond that is overkill and an attempt at needless sensationalism/grandstanding IMO…

  4. 91 Octane

    Nevertheless, the Vanguard believes that ultimately the police officers’ names need to be released. Anonymity provides a measure of protection for the officers, but it also shields the university from accountability.

    elaine just touched on the vanguards problem – none of these two explanations make any sense:

    1. university needs to be held accountable –
    like elaine said the report without the names is going to guide changes in University policies – and we are already seeing that -there was no pepperspray incident with US bank.

    2. the officers and accountability-
    the officers as elaine said are already targets of internal investigations, which the vanguard does not know the outcome.

    Not buying those two excuses – so I’ll choose the hidden question mark door number three – which is probably the real reason…. and the only one that makes sense.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    ” The officers will most likely be disciplined in some fashion. The university will change its policies.”

    How can you be assured that this is indeed the case particularly the former?

  6. David M. Greenwald


    the officers as elaine said are already targets of internal investigations, which the vanguard does not know the outcome.”

    This is the problem – if the names are kept secret, no one will know the outcome. So we are left in the position of having to trust that UC will do the right thing. I trust that UC will do the right thing for themselves, but that does not necessarily coincide with the right thing for the community.

    So really this report captures two of the three important elements.

    (1) It will answer the question of who ordered what from up high.
    (2) It will address recommendations made by the task force on policy changes.

    Both of these are crucial. But policy changes along only deal with future actions, they do not deal with accountability for past actions, which is very important. Without names, we have no way of knowing what happens because there is no external check on internal policies.

  7. Ryan Kelly

    I believe that names should be released where they are relevant to understanding that day. I don’t think I need to know the name of every officer who what there that day. If non-police officer witnesses are named, then officers should be treated equally. The majority of officers there that day did not act improperly under the orders that they were given. My impression was that there were a few officers that stand out and a general mass of “other officers,” both City of Davis and UCD. Rather than have the officers hide behind the anonymity of “other officers” and create the illusion that all police action was done as a group, I would understand better if the stand out officers were identified and thus separated from the rest.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “I believe that names should be released where they are relevant to understanding that day. I don’t think I need to know the name of every officer who what there that day. “

    I agree.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]“I believe that names should be released where they are relevant to understanding that day. I don’t think I need to know the name of every officer who what there that day. ” [/quote]

    I would argue that we don’t need to know the names of any of the officers beyond what we know already (Pike and Lee), to understand what happened, and for the university to determine what it needs to do moving forward (which I think the university has already pretty much figured out). Dmg speaks about accountability. What about student accountability, for students who themselves were no angels in this debacle? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…

  10. SODA

    How far should we take the protection of names? If it is found that John Meyer and/or Chancellor Katehi ordered the riot gear and possible spraying, should we redact those names?

  11. David Suder

    [quote]” The officers will most likely be disciplined in some fashion. The university will change its policies.”

    How can you be assured that this is indeed the case particularly the former? [/quote]
    Lt. Pike and Chief Spicuzza [b]have[/b] been disciplined. Five months (so far) paid vacation.

  12. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]What about student accountability, for students who themselves were no angels in this debacle? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…[/quote]

    I don’t understand your point. Even if the students were completely wrong, it still doesn’t change the community’s interest in seeing that our University and City employees are carrying out their duties in an appropriate way. You haven’t read the report, yet there is a desperation about your posts. Don’t you believe in working toward restoring confidence in our officers and ensuring that they are not put in a similar position in the future?

  13. medwoman

    Elaine

    “What about student accountability, for students who themselves were no angels in this debacle? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”

    I would make three points about this:
    1) I think being pepper sprayed is in and of itself probably adequate “punishment” for the students transgressions.
    2) As you and I have agreed previously, the authorities are to be held to a greater accountability than are students.
    3) The police are on the public pay roll and as such are accountable directly to us in their roll as protectors. Not so the students.

  14. JustSaying

    The names probably will get released when the legal business is completed. It the meantime, it’s worth knowing what the justice and his team have concluded.

  15. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I don’t understand your point. Even if the students were completely wrong, it still doesn’t change the community’s interest in seeing that our University and City employees are carrying out their duties in an appropriate way. You haven’t read the report, yet there is a desperation about your posts. Don’t you believe in working toward restoring confidence in our officers and ensuring that they are not put in a similar position in the future?[/quote]

    The students are getting off scot free, even tho they instigated this entire mess. I agree it does not excuse overzealousness on the part of police, but it must be taken into consideration when deciding to what extent the police overreacted and why. To give you a better sense of where I am going with this, had the students truly protested peacefully as they have so often disingenuously claimed, instead of baiting the police with ugly and threatening chants and encircling the police, I would have an entirely different take on the police actions than the way the students actually handled things…

  16. David M. Greenwald

    The students are getting off because the university grossly screwed up their handling of what should have been a very minor incident and used illegal and disproportionate force on it. This is not about the student, it’s about the government and what it is or is not allowed to do.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The students are getting off because the university grossly screwed up their handling of what should have been a very minor incident and used illegal and disproportionate force on it. This is not about the student, it’s about the government and what it is or is not allowed to do.[/quote]

    You cannot leave out context, and interestingly Reynoso didn’t!

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