- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The California Supreme Court indicated Tuesday that it was inclined to favor the public’s right to know the names of officers involved in shootings.

In oral arguments, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (TAHN’-ee cann-TIHL’ sock-uh-OO’eh) suggested the California Public Records Act favors disclosure and does not allow for blanket exemptions.

Justice Goodwin Liu pointed out that police wear identifying nameplates in public. And Justice Marvin R. Baxter questioned whether agencies would withhold names and show the same concerns in heroic situations for officers.

The case stems from a 2010 public records request from the Los Angeles Times (https://lat.ms/1fFYas5) that was rejected by the city of Long Beach.

A reporter had asked for the names of officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man three days earlier, and the names of city officers involved in shootings in the five previous years. Long Beach has never released the requested names, though the identities of the officers involved in the original case were revealed by Los Angeles County prosecutors.

The Long Beach police union and other law enforcement organizations fought the request, arguing they were concerned for the officers’ safety, and saying that state law calling for privacy in personnel matters should apply to police officers in shootings. Both a trial court and appeals court rejected the argument, and they appealed to the state high court.

“We’re concerned for the safety of lives,” James E. Trott, representing the police side, said in court Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Times, joined by other media outlets and the American Civil Liberties Union, have argued the public is entitled to know which agents of government have used lethal force.

Times attorney Kelli L. Sager told the court there is “no greater exercise of government power than the power to take someone’s life.”

The court’s decision is due within 90 days.


Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com

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