Judge: Pasadena must release redacted report on police shooting of teen
A Los Angeles County judge ruled Thursday that the city of Pasadena should make public at least a portion of an independent consultant’s report into the 2012 fatal police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager.
Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant rebuffed efforts by the Pasadena Police Officers Assn. to keep the entire report secret, ruling instead that he would redact portions of the document that rely on the city’s administrative investigation of the shooting.
Chalfant said he would decide later exactly which sections of the report should be withheld from the public.
The report, written by the Office of Independent Review Group, examined the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade and made recommendations for how the department could improve, according to Chalfant’s order.
The consulting group reviewed two Pasadena Police Department investigations of the shooting, one criminal and one administrative, the judge said.
“The criminal investigation and any other source of information concerning department practice do not relate to the department administrative investigation,” Chalfant wrote.
The decision is the latest in a series of legal cases that test how much the public gets to know about the conduct of police officers in California.
A series of California laws often called the Peace Officers Bill of Rights give law enforcement officers unique legal protections that include confidentiality of their personnel records.
The state Supreme Court recently ruled that the names of officers involved in police shootings must be made public except under exceptional circumstances.
In the Pasadena case, McDade’s mother, Anya Slaughter, had asked the city to release the full report on her son’s shooting. The Times and several local civil rights groups, including the Pasadena chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, ACT and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, joined Slaughter’s request.
The union representing the two officers opposed the release, arguing that the report included personnel information that is confidential under state law.
City officials said they wanted to make public a version of the report that would have redacted about 14 pages – about 20% of the document – that they said involved personnel matters, according to court records.
McDade was shot March 24, 2012, by Pasadena Police Officers Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin as the teen ran on Sunset Avenue. His death sparked protests and calls for increased civilian oversight of the city’s Police Department.
The district attorney’s office concluded that the two officers reasonably believed McDade was armed with a gun based on false information from a 911 caller, who had reported that his laptop had been stolen at gunpoint. The crime turned out to be a simple theft by another young man who was with McDade. Officers believed both men were armed based on the false report.
One of the officers said he saw McDade’s hand at his waistband during the pursuit, according to a district attorney’s report.
The officer, who was seated in a police cruiser, saw McDade running toward the side of his police vehicle and believed the teen had a weapon. The second officer said he was running after McDade and opened fire when he heard and saw gunfire coming from the direction of the teenager.
Slaughter filed a lawsuit over the shooting and recently settled with the city for $850,000.
The Office of Independent Review Group previously examined the fatal shooting by Pasadena police of Leroy Barnes Jr. in 2009. The consulting group found that the officers involved in Barnes’ shooting put themselves in a tactically questionable and precarious situation that might have heightened their fear. The consultants recommended more than a dozen reforms, including improvements to how the department investigates police shootings and how the agency tracks officers who are in multiple incidents.
The city adopted nearly all of the recommendations.
The Office of Independent Review Group’s report on the Barnes shooting was previously made public, as were the consulting group’s reports for other law enforcement agencies, such as Fullerton police and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
For more Southern California police and crime news, follow @lacrimes.
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