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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Court of Appeals blocks release of redacted OIR Group Report on McDade shooting

Court of Appeals blocks release of redacted OIR Group Report on McDade shooting

by Pasadena Independent
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The California Court of Appeal issued a Thanksgiving eve stay blocking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant’s November 13 judgment ordering the release, over the objection of the Pasadena Police Officers Association (“PPOA”), of a heavily redacted version of the Office of Independent
Review Group (“OIR”) Report on the Pasadena Police Department’s shooting of the unarmed young African- American youth Kendrec McDade. After lengthy court proceedings before Judge Chalfant and his twice privately reviewing the City of Pasadena’s 14 pages of redactions to the OIR Report, Judge Chalfant ordered the City of Pasadena to release the Report on December 3 to the interveners in the PPOA-initiated lawsuit – i.e., McDade’s mother, Anya Slaughter, the LA Times, the Pasadena NAACP, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, ACT, and Kris Ockershauser, convener of the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of the Pasadena Police Department. The Court of Appeal stay now further delays the Report’s release while it decides what to do with the PPOA petition to stop release of any part of the OIR Report.
Elbie J. Hickambottom, General Counsel for the Pasadena NAACP and one of the attorneys for the Interveners, expressed dismay today that the PPOA has once again blocked public disclosure of even a heavily-redacted OIR Report: “The PPOA’s position is so extreme that it would essentially block any public scrutiny of police officer conduct. The PPOA’s intransigent protection of the few bad apples in the Police Department does a disservice to the great majority of Pasadena Police Officers who are conscientiously doing their jobs. Unfortunately, the City administration’s backtracked on its initial commitment to open government when it unconscionably induced the PPOA to file its premature lawsuit. The City Administration’s conduct is part and parcel of its hostility to effective civilian review of the Police Department that has encouraged the PPOA to aggressively fight open government. We’re confident that the Court of Appeal, like Judge Chalfant, will ultimately reject the PPOA’s animosity to open government and its delaying tactics and instead let the public see at least most of the OIR Report.”
Pasadena Police Department officer Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen shot and killed Kendrec McDade in 2012 after a false report that two youths with guns had robbed a victim; the officers chased McDade for several blocks, before shooting him, claiming they believed that he had a gun. However, McDade was unarmed. According to Slaughter’s attorneys, the police officers appear to have “violated a number of policies in gunning down McDade, including shooting at him while driving, shooting at him from with the police car, failing to turn on any recording equipment, sirens, or lights, shooting into a dark background that could have contained unseen people, and failing to identify themselves as police officers.”
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez determined that the shooting was within policy.
The City retained the OIR Group to review the police department’s handling of the shooting and its investigations; at the time the OIR Group was hired, Chief Sanchez indicated he wanted the OIR Report publicly released. Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck sparked a public outcry in July when he publicly stated that the City would release only the recommendations in the OIR Report to the City Council and to the public. (The City Council has never seen the report; only City Manager Beck and his office and Chief Sanchez and top police administrators have been privy to the drafts and the final report.) Numerous Pasadena community members urged the City Council to release the full OIR Report. Community members, community organizations, and newspapers then filed public records act requests for the OIR Report. At the City’s urging, the PPOA filed suit in early September to prevent the City from releasing any part of the OIR Report; the City used the PPOA lawsuit to avoid responding to the public records act requests. McDade’s mother, Anya Slaughter, the Pasadena NAACP, ACT, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and ACLU Board member Kris Ockershauser intervened in the lawsuit, got the PPOA’s lawsuit dismissed as premature because the City had not indicated it was going to release the document; Judge Chalfant ordered the City to “stop playing games” and instead promptly indicate whether or not it would release the Report. The Los Angeles Times at the same time intervened to also seek release of the OIR Report. The City then submitted under seal a copy of the Report that redacted 14 pages of the 70-page report. On November 4, Judge Chalfant overruled most of the PPOA’s objections to release of the OIR Report, ordered the City to unredact two of its proposed redactions, and ordered the City to redact four short portions that it had not redacted. Those rulings resulted in the November 13 judgment ordering release of the redacted version of the OIR Report.

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