By Sam Stanton
The Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times filed suit today against the University of California Board of Regents in a bid to force the release of police officer names that have been kept secret from the public since last November's pepper-spray incident on the UC Davis campus.
The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, seeks a court order forcing the release of the names that were redacted from a task force study of the incident that was released in April.
The task force, headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, originally included the names of all officers involved in the incident. All but two of the names were subsequently redacted after a successful court fight waged by the Federated University Police Officers Association, the union representing campus officers.
The names of Annette Spicuzza, then the UC Davis police chief, and Lt. John Pike, whose identity became widely known after he was filmed pepper spraying students and protesters, were included in the report released to the public.
Following the release of the redacted report, The Bee and The Times sought the officers' names through requests made under the California Public Records Act.
UC officials rejected the requests, citing the original injunction that halted release of the names.
The newspapers sued today, arguing in court papers that the state Supreme Court has repeatedly found that "keeping secret the names of public employees does not serve the public interest..."
"In particular, the idea that government agents can anonymously plan and execute operations using chemical weapons against protesters in the public square is antithetical to the most fundamental notions of democracy, which depend upon public scrutiny of official conduct," the suit argues. "The Regents' withholding of the names of the officers also contradicts California law, which requires officers to wear name tags on their uniforms."
UC officials did not have an immediate response this afternoon, and John Bakhit, the police union attorney who won the battle to redact officers' names, did not respond to a request for comment.
Reynoso, UC President Mark G. Yudof and UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi all have said previously that they wanted as much of the the Reynoso report released as possible. The deal that ultimately was struck to redact some names allowed for its release after several delays.
UC campuses have been roiled by protests over rising tuition costs and education cutbacks, and the pepper spray incident spawned numerous investigations, reviews and policy changes that still are underway.