A Los Angeles County judge ruled Thursday that the city of Pasadena must publicly disclose most of an independent consultant's report into the 2012 fatal police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager.
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.
Chalfant rebuffed efforts by the Pasadena Police Officers Assn. to keep the entire report into the 2012 shooting secret. The judge chose instead to order the city to redact portions of the document that rely on the police department's administrative investigation of the shooting.
Kevin Vick, an attorney representing the Los Angeles Times, which went to court to seek disclosure of the report, hailed the judge's decision not to keep the entire report under wraps. The newspaper, along with the teen's mother and local activist groups, had sought to make the entire report public
But Richard A. Shinee, an attorney for the police union, said the judge had redacted more of the document than the city of Pasadena had planned to remove.
"All ... of you are going to say 'we won,'" Chalfant told the lawyers in court on Thursday.
The consulting group reviewed two Pasadena Police Department investigations of the shooting, one criminal and one administrative, the judge said.
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 argued 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.
The Office of Independent Review Group previously examined the fatal shooting by Pasadena police of Leroy Barnes Jr. in 2009. The report on Barnes' shooting was 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.