Report on Unarmed Calif. Shooting Faces Sunlight

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A judge used too broad a brush in shielding an independent report on the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, a California appeals court ruled.
     Pasadena police officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen shot 19-year-old Kendrec McDade on March 24, 2012, after responding to an armed robbery. The officers said they shot in self-defense, but it was later found that McDade was not armed at the time.
     The Office of Independent Review Group prepared a report on the shooting, set for release in September 2014.
     But Griffin and Newlen claimed that the report, which includes information on statements the officers made to investigators after the shooting, would violate their privacy rights.
     The officers and the Pasadena Police Officers Association sued Pasadena, its top officials and Los Angeles County Superior Court.
     Though a judge granted a temporary injunction that sealed the report, an appellate panel found Thursday that the order went too far.
     Portions of the report, though not all of it, are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act, the court said.
     “Only records generated in connection with a citizen complaint, or administrative appraisal or discipline, are protected,” Justice Jeffrey Johnson wrote for a three-person panel.
     Since parts of the report are related to the administrative investigation of the officers, they are exempt from disclosure, Johnson said.
     But “nonprivileged portions of the report are not so intertwined with privileged portions” as to make the entire report exempt, he added.
     The trial court’s redactions from the report were “overbroad,” according to the 33-page opinion.
     “Information properly classified as personnel records must be redacted,” joohnson said.
     “The remainder, however, including analyses of the Pasadena Police Department’s response to and handling of the investigation of the McDade shooting, and the Office of Independent Review’s recommendations for institutional reform, must be disclosed publicly,” he added.
     And although the officers argued that the whole report was not a public record at all, Johnson found that “there can be no legitimate dispute” on that issue.
     On remand, the trial court must conduct additional proceedings to reconsider which portions of the report contain confidential personnel records.
     The trial court must then order additional material released, and issue a new or modified judgment.
     Neither side could be reached for comment on Friday.

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