The Pasadena police union’s appeal of an injunction ordering the City of Pasadena to release 80% of an external Report on the Kendrec McDade shooting backfired today as the appellate court ordered release of even more of the Report than the 80% the trial court ordered the City to release. The Court’s opinion reveals that the City attempted to use the police officers’ privacy rights to cover up the Report’s criticisms of its own investigations, practice, and policies.
The decision today by Division 2 of the California Court of Appeals rejecting the appeal by Pasadena PD Officers Robert Griffin and Jeffery Newlen and their union the Pasadena Police Officers Association (“PPOA”) is the latest chapter in the shooting of the unarmed African-American youth Kendrec McDade on March 24, 2012. The PPOA appealed the November, 2014, Los Angeles
Superior Court judgment ordering that 80% of the OIR Report be released to the LA Times, McDade’s mother, and Pasadena-area police-oversight activists; the PPOA claimed that the Report’s release would violate Officers Griffin’s and Newlen’s privacy rights.
But the Court’s opinion today not only rejected the PPOA’s attempt to suppress the whole report or more of it; rather, it went further and ordered that more than the 80% of the Report ordered by the trial court should be released.
Police Union appeal on McDade shooting Report backfires; Court reveals Pasadena’s redactions covered-up criticisms of its investigations
Today’s Court opinion held that “analyses of the PPD’s response to and handling of the investigation of the McDade shooting, and OIR’s recommendations for institutional reform, must be disclosed publicly.” The opinion states “A number of redactions proposed by the City and largely adopted by the trial court protected not privileged information relating to the officers, but information or findings critiquing conduct by or the policies and practice of the PPD itslef. Any redaction of such material subverts the public’s right to ‘be kept fully informed of the
activities of its peace officers’ ‘[i]n order to maintain trust in its police department…’”
The published Court opinion has attached to it a sealed “Appendix A” which “contains a non-exhaustive list of material in the Report erroneously redacted by the trial court.” The appellate court ordered the case remanded to the trial court with directions to “conduct the additional proceedings it deems appropriate and issue a new or modified judgment ordering additional redactions
in accordance with this opinion.” It also ordered that Appendix A be unsealed by the trial court when it issues its new judgment.
Skip Hickambottom, one of the attorneys representing McDade’s mother, police-oversight activist Kris Ockerhauser, and Pasadena-area organizations the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, NAACP, and ACT, said today’s appellate opinion “gives the City of Pasadena another self-inflicted black eye by revealing that the City Attorney’s office used the officers’ privacy rights to
suppress the OIR’s criticisms of the City administration rather that to protect the officers’ privacy rights.” The Pasadena City Attorney’s redactions that were largely adopted by the trial court came after the City initially refused to take a position as to whether it would release the OIR Report when the PPOA filed its suit. After the trial judge ordered the City to “stop playing games” and to take a position on what it would release, the City Attorney submitted the OIR Report with 14 pages of the OIR Report redacted based on the representation that those portions – 20% of the Report – had to be redacted to protect the officers’ privacy rights. Hickambottom stated “Today’s appellate opinion indicates that the City Attorneywas instead using the officers’ privacy rights to suppress public disclosure of OIR criticism of the PPD’s investigations, policies, and practices. Today’s Court opinion instructs the trial court that it must release the additional City-redacted material in Exhibit A and must determine whether even more than Exhibit A
should be released. The trial court can only order that even more redactions should be eliminated; it cannot add to the redactions.”
Dale Gronemeier, another of the attorneys representing McDade’s mother and the Pasadena-area police oversight activists, stated “Today’s appellate opinion strikes an important blow against police departments’ and police unions’ resistance to independent review of their conduct.
Unfortunately for McDade’s mother and the community, today’s opinion comes too late to undo Chief Sanchez’ shameless defense of the McDade shooting because it is now past the time that the City can initiate disciplinary proceedings against officers Griffin and Newlen.” Gronemeier was pessimistic that the Court decision would lead to a prompt resolution of the McDade shooting controversy, saying: “Unjustified delays by the City and the police union have prevented public disclosure of the OIR McDade shooting Report for at least 2 ½ years, and continued litigation by the police union will probably continue the suppression of the Report until at least the end of this year and possibly for years if the PPOA appeals to the California Supreme Court .”