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The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the names of police officers involved in shootings in the line of duty are exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), reports Metropolitan News-Enterprise.
A California appellate court ruled in February that the officers’ names were not exempt from the CPRA. The California Supreme Court judges unanimously agreed to hear the police identity disclosure case this week.
The case arose from a 2010 police shooting. On December 12, 2010, Long Beach police officers shot and killed Douglas Zerby, an intoxicated, unarmed 35-year-old man who was carrying a garden hose nozzle that officers mistook for a gun. Following the shooting, Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Winton made a CPRA request to the City of Long Beach seeking the names of Long Beach police officers involved in the shooting and the names of Long Beach police officers involved in shootings from January 1, 2005 through January 10, 2011.
The City initially planned to release the information to the Times, but the Long Beach Police Officers Association (LBPOA) sued the City to prevent the release, expressing concerns about officer safety. (An LBPOA rep pointed to an incident in which an anonymous blog posting contained a threat to a shooting officer's family and to another incident in which an officer involved in a shooting was reassigned to another area following death threats.)
Both the trial court and the appellate court ruled against LBPOA, and found the CPRA privacy exemption did not apply in the case.
Second District Court of Appeal Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, writing for a three-judge panel, said, "We agree with the trial court that appellants' assertion of possible threats was inadequate under the [CPRA] exemption, absent any evidence indicating that the safety or effectiveness of any particular officer was threatened by the disclosure of his or her name."
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