California Supreme Court: officers' names in shootings to be public

Chief McMillin addresses ruling

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The California Supreme Court has ruled that police departments must in most cases divulge the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.

In a 6-1 ruling Thursday, the high court rejected blanket bans citing unspecified safety threats to officers.

The case arises from a public records act request by The Los Angeles Times that sought the names of two Long Beach police officers involved in a 2010 fatal shooting of a man holding a garden hose.

The police union asked a court to block the release of the names.

Writing for the majority, Justice Joyce Kennard said releasing names helps hold peace officers' accountable and trumps general safety concerns.

Kennard said exceptions could be made to keep private names of undercover officers and in the case of credible threats.

In the decision, the justices wrote: "We do not hold that the names of officers involved in shootings have to be disclosed in every case, regardless of the circumstances."

"We merely conclude, as did the trial court and the Court of Appeal, that the particularized showing necessary to outweigh the public‘s interest in disclosure was not made here, where the Union and the City relied on only a few vaguely worded declarations making only general assertions about the risks officers face after a shooting. The public records request by the Times is broadly worded and covers a wide variety of incidents. Thus, the Union and the City sought a blanket rule preventing the disclosure of officer names every time an officer is involved in a shooting. Such a rule would even prevent disclosure of the name of an officer who acted in a heroic manner that was unlikely to provoke retaliation of any kind, in which case officer safety would not be an issue. We reject that blanket rule."

To read the entire decision, click here.

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