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Judge blocks UC Davis pepper-spraying report

Temporary ruling on campus officers' action during an Occupy protest came at the request of the UC police union.

March 07, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray on Occupy UC Davis protesters on Nov. 18.
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray on Occupy UC Davis protesters… (Wayne Tilcock / Davis Enterprise )

An Alameda County Superior Court judge Tuesday temporarily blocked the release of a University of California investigative report about the controversial pepper-spraying of UC Davis student protesters by campus police in November.

Judge Evelio Grillo's ruling in an Oakland courtroom came at the request of the UC police union. The Federated University Police Officers Assn. contends that state law forbids public disclosure of such information as the names of UC Davis campus police officers involved in the spraying incident and personnel information garnered from interviews with them.

The matter is scheduled to return to court on March 16 for a hearing on whether the temporary restraining order should be dropped or a permanent injunction granted.

Police union attorney John Bakhit said he was not seeking to squelch the entire report about the police tactics, which was written by a task force chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso with help from a security consulting firm headed by former Los Angeles police Chief William J. Bratton. But Bakhit said he wanted UC to cut out the portions containing what he said appeared to be confidential personnel information that he likened to a patient's hospital records. Even though the names of two of the officers are widely known and have appeared in media reports, other information about them has not been disclosed and other officers have not been identified, he added.

He described Tuesday's ruling as "the right thing in the interest of caution." The judge also ordered UC to turn over a copy of the report to Bakhit, who had not seen it previously, and warned him not to reveal its contents and not to show it to any of the officers involved in the case.

The report was scheduled to be released Tuesday online and at an afternoon public forum at UC Davis. However, administrators canceled those plans Monday after learning of the police union's request for the restraining order.

UC general counsel Charles Robinson said he was disappointed with the court order but stressed that the judge did not rule on the merits of the arguments.

"We look forward to the next round, and we will fight vigorously in court to ensure that the task force report sees public light as soon as possible," Robinson said in a statement.

Last month, UC Davis students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed or allegedly roughed up by campus police in the Nov. 18 incident filed a federal lawsuit against campus administrators and police, alleging that their civil rights were violated. A video showing an officer spraying the seated demonstrators at close range triggered national outrage and debate about police tactics against Occupy movement protests.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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