By Sam Stanton
Responding to a lawsuit filed by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times, a judge ruled today that the names of police officers involved in last November's pepper spray incident at UC Davis must be made public.
The order by Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo reverses an earlier decision by the judge to allow release of a report into the incident with the names of the officers redacted.
The Federated University Police Officers Association -- the union representing campus police officers -- has been fighting disclosure of the officers' names, arguing that state law prohibits it and that revealing their identities could expose them to harrassment.
But Grillo concluded that the report was separate from any internal affairs investigation into the actions of police officers and is subject to release in full under the California Public Records Act.
"As police officers paid by the public and authorized by the public to excercise authority over individual members of the public, the FUPOA cannot reasonably expect that information about the actions of police officers will be shielded from public scrutiny other than as provided by statute," the judge wrote.
The newspapers sued after University of California officials denied requests under the public records act for the officers' names.
"We're glad the court agrees this information should be available to the public," Joyce Terhaar, The Bee's executive editor, said today. "We continue to believe one of the most important things we do is to hold public officials and other powerful people accountable for their actions.
"That's why we joined this legal effort, to hold everyone accountable for their part in the pepper spraying."
The pepper spraying occurred during a campus protest last fall over tuition hikes and budget cuts, and prompted widespread outcry. Several investigations into the incident were launched, including an independent review overseen by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
The Reynoso report became the focus of legal wrangling after the police union went to court to oppose the release of officers' names. Grillo eventually allowed it to be released with only the names of two officers -- Lt. John Pike and then-Chief Annette Spicuzza -- included.
Pike's identity had been known since the incident as a result of video footage of him spraying students and protesters, and Grillo noted that other officers' identities have become known through other video of the incident.
The 190-page report was released in April and was highly critical of university administrators as well as the campus police.
The judge's decision does not mean the UC regents must immediately release the names that were redacted because he stayed his order through July 27 to give the police union time to file an appeal.