Editorial: Pasadena police shooting report should be released


On the evening of March 24, 2012, Oscar Carrillo spotted two men rifling through his parked car in Pasadena and called 911, telling the dispatcher that the robbers had “just put a gun in my face.” There was no gun; Carrillo simply hoped to get a faster police response to a routine car burglary. But that lie set off a calamitous chain of events that ended in the shooting death of an unarmed 19-year-old man, Kendrec McDade.

No charges were filed against the officers. An internal review determined they had acted within department policy, and the FBI ended its inquiry without action on a possible civil rights violation (McDade was black and the officers are white). The city settled a wrongful-death lawsuit with McDade’s parents for more than $1 million. And as part of its response to the incident, the city wisely asked the L.A. County Office of Independent Review to investigate and submit a report to the city, which it did more than a year ago.

Unfortunately, no one other than a few city officials has read the report, primarily because of opposition by the Pasadena Police Officers Assn., which has gone to court to keep the report sealed. The union’s position is that releasing the report would make public information that belongs in private personnel records under state law.


It’s a stretch of an argument. If the report includes personal details about the lives of officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen that are not pertinent to their actions that night, the solution is to redact that specific information, not to withhold the entire report. Keeping the report secret merely raises questions of a potential cover-up.

The union’s petition describes the report as “criticizing the performance of their official duties.” But isn’t that just the kind of information the public should have access to in a situation like this? Under the union’s argument, any investigative report into the actions of a police officer should be kept secret because it is inherently a performance evaluation. It’s hard to imagine that the Legislature, in seeking to protect officers’ privacy, intended to give a cover of secrecy to independent reviews of office-involved shootings.

There is an important public interest in learning the result of such investigations. If accommodations need to be made to prevent the publication of personal details unrelated to McDade’s death, no doubt something can be worked out. But the report, in as full a form as possible, should be released.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion