In the early morning hours of June 14, 2005, officers from the West Sacramento Police Department spotted two individuals along the dark Riverbank Road. Upon contacting Ernesto and Fermin Galvan, they noticed that one of them “was sweating profusely, was fidgety, and would not look him in the eyes.”
What followed was a confrontation that left Ernesto Galvan and his brother badly beaten to the point where Ernesto had permanent injuries, including numerous broken bones in the face. The DA’s office charged the men with resisting arrest by threats and violence and misdemeanor battery on a police officer.
As the plaintiffs alleged in a civil complaint originally filed in 2008, “police officers used excessive and potentially deadly force, or force likely to cause, and which did cause, serious bodily injury to plaintiff (Ernesto Galvan).”
As a consequence of the beating by police against him, plaintiff ERNESTO suffered multiple skull and facial fractures, a severe concussion, fractures of the fingers on both hands, lacerations and bruising. The beating left plaintiff ERNESTO comatose for several weeks, during which time he required assisted ventilation for his breathing. As a consequence of the beating he sustained at the hands of defendants, plaintiff ERNESTO has suffered a permanently diminished mental capacity, as well as partial paralysis on one side of his body. Said permanent disabilities have made it impossible for plaintiff ERNESTO to return to the workplace where he had been previously gainfully employed full-time as a bricklayer, earning in excess of twenty dollars per hour.
The case went to trial in 2007 and twice in 2010 but the jury hung 11-1 for guilt in 2007 and in the first trial in 2010. After a 7-5 vote for acquittal in the third trial, the DA’s office, even though they believed the men guilty, dismissed all the charges and did not try them a fourth time.
When the governor signed SB 832.7 last fall, it opened the possibility of the public gaining access to police records. Under PC 832.7, the public is now entitled to police records in “[a]n incident in which the use of force by a peace officer or custodial officer against a person resulted in death, or in great bodily injury.”
The Vanguard on January 8 filed a records request for police records related to the incident involving Ernesto and Fermin Galvan. On January 25, the city of West Sacramento sent the Vanguard 92 pages of records. But none of them related to records described under PC 732.7(b) which should include “but not limited to records related to reports or investigations, pertaining to the Incident.”
Moreover, the respondent city failed to “(1) provide reasons for withholding records responsive to Petitioner’s request; (2) take affirmative steps to assist Petitioner to access the records he requested provide records; (4) provide access to all records or information Petitioner requested; and Respondent City otherwise engaged in a pattern of conduct that caused and continues to cause unnecessary delay in the public’s access to public records.”
Unfortunately, there are no administrative remedies that can or would remedy these violation.
The 92 pages of records provided included: (1) the DA’s press release for not filing for a fourth trial; (2) an article from a Woodland Record on January 7, 2011; (3) an article from the Vanguard on February 12, 2010; (4) Settlement Agreement in the Civil Suit; (5) Stipulation for Dismissal filed by the defense in the civil case; (6) Amended stipulation for dismissal; (7) Settlement Agreement from Pacific Life and Annuity Services; (8) Email on the settlement; (9) Assignment of Counsel; (10) Opposition to Pitchess Motion from 2008; (11) Summons in Civil Case; and (12) Civil Complaint. These were all records that were already available to the Vanguard and to the public.
“The public is deeply interested in how law enforcement agencies work to prevent excessive force issues and, when they happen, how law enforcement agencies respond,” said Paul Nicholas Boylan, the attorney representing the Vanguard in its lawsuit, filed and served on January 31.
“The California legislature recognized this public interest and amended the Public Records Act to expressly require public agencies to provide records that allow the public to examine how well law enforcement agencies are working to address and prevent excessive force events. The City of West Sacramento did not provided access to these records, but I am confident that I can work with the City Attorney’s Office to quickly resolve this dispute,” Mr. Boylan said.
The Vanguard has filed similar requests in all jurisdictions in Yolo County and has received the full police records in the 2012 Davis Police Tasering of Jerome Wren and Tatiana Bush.
In Sacramento, the Sacramento Bee and LA Times filed suit on January 25 against the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, “charging that the department is refusing to follow the statute that requires the release of records on deputies who fired their weapons or engaged in misconduct on duty.”
The Bee reported: “The requests sought records of all such incidents dating back to Jan. 1, 2014, but Sheriff Scott Jones’ department quickly rejected both requests, saying it had such records but would not release them until it had ‘clear legal authority to release such records.’”
—David M. Greenwald reporting