The Pasadena Police Officers' Assn. will gain nothing from its ongoing battle to hide the independent review of Kendrec McDade's death three years ago. Why? Because the key findings of the report are already out. And ironically, it was the union itself that inadvertently spilled the beans in court documents filed last month as part of its effort to stop the city from releasing the report publicly.
Those excerpts made it clear why the union might want to keep the entire report under wraps. Pasadena Police Officers Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin made bad choices and violated department policy when they pursued and then killed the unarmed 19-year-old African American man on the night of March 24, 2012, according to the report. The officers, who are white, were cleared in the shooting by an internal department review, and the district attorney chose not to file charges. But that didn't assuage everyone in the community, least of all McDade's parents, who sued the city for wrongful death. The city settled with them for about $1 million.
The report by the Office of Independent Review Group, a consulting firm, was undertaken at the request of the city of Pasadena and was completed more than a year and a half ago. Yet it has been tied up in court by the union, which claims that it is effectively a personnel evaluation — and therefore ought to be private — because it appraised the officers' performance.
In a particularly silly move, the Court of Appeal sealed the police union's documents after they were inadvertently made public. But it's too late. Community activists, including McDade's mother, have distributed the report far and wide, even reading excerpts during the public comment period of the Pasadena City Council meeting last week.
The idea that the public shouldn't be allowed to see a review of an officer-involved shooting is ridiculous — and especially unpopular in the wake of the fatal shooting of another unarmed African American teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.
The smart thing for the police union to do now is to give up its losing battle and allow the release of the entire report. It's also the right thing to do to repair the rift between the Police Department and the city's African American community.
Meanwhile, the police are appealing to the City Council for a raise. One way to build support for a pay increase would be to promote transparency rather than opacity. Allowing the independent review of the McDade shooting to be released would be a good place to start.