Newspapers demand names of officers involved in pepper spraying incident

On May 25, the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit against the University of California Board of Regents. The suit demands that the UC Regents comply with the California Public Records Act with the release of the police officers’ names that were removed from the Reynoso Task Force Report on the controversial pepper spraying of UC Davis students.
The lawsuit declares that the UC Regents violated the public’s right of access after redacting all of the names but two of the UC Davis officers involved in the operation that lead to the pepper spraying on Nov. 18, 2011.
“[The L.A. Times and Sacramento Bee] allege that The Regents have failed to represent the interests of the press and public, leaving [the newspapers] with no choice but to bring this Petition to protect the public’s right of access to this important information,” the lawsuit states.
In March, the Federated University Police Officer’s Association (FUPOA) filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents declaring that the names of the police officers should be redacted from the Reynoso Task Force Report. The court decided that all of the police officers’ names but Lt. John Pike and former Chief of Police Annette Spicuzza could be redacted from the report because they were already in the public domain.
“The police federation sued to have all of the names kept sealed. The trial court basically determined that [Lt.] Pike’s name and the name of the chief should be released, but agreed preliminarily that the rest of the names could be redacted,” said Thomas Burke, the attorney representing the L.A. Times and Sacramento Bee.
The UC Regents were in favor of full public disclosure of the Reynoso Task Force Report.

The case between the FUPOA and the UC Regents has been settled, and the names have not been officially released. There has been speculation about which police officers were involved, but the public is entitled to an official confirmation of the other officers that were involved, according to Burke.

“The settlement of that case, so the reports could be made public, did not preclude or bar a follow-up public record lawsuit,” Burke said.

As a result, the Sacramento Bee and L.A. Times issued a lawsuit after several denied requests for the official list of names.

“We believe that the [UC] Regents stated publicly that this report was to be made public. Justice Reynoso said that all of the names were going to be made public, and this lawsuit is about making sure that that’s what happens,” Burke said.

However, David Kidd, President of the UC Davis Police Officer’s Association, is fearful of the officers being targeted and their lives threatened from anonymous sources around the world if the names are released to the public, which is what happened to Lt. Pike.

“FUPOA is trying to protect our officers from this new type of ‘internet terrorism.’ We go out every day to protect the students on this campus and risk our lives so that people such as you can sit back in relative safety and exercise the freedom of speech, which we all enjoy,” Kidd said in an e-mail interview.

While the police union understands the public’s right to know the names, the Alameda Superior Court decided to redact the names during the FUPOA and UC Regents lawsuit.

“There has to be a balance between the public’s right to know and the right of our government officials to be safe,” Kidd said.

John Bakhit, the attorney representing the police union, could not be reached to comment on the lawsuit.

According to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse, the attorneys representing the UC Regents and the attorneys representing the L.A. Times and Sacramento Bee agreed to submit briefs by June 12 and have set a June 26 hearing date.

Converse had no further comment regarding the lawsuit.

MICHELLE MURPHY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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