SAN FRANCISCO (CBSLA.com/AP) — The California Supreme Court has ruled that police departments must in most cases divulge the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.
In a 6-1 ruling Thursday, the high court rejected blanket bans citing unspecified safety threats to officers.
Writing for the majority, Justice Joyce Kennard said releasing names helps hold peace officers accountable and trumps general safety concerns.
Kennard said exceptions could be made to keep private names of undercover officers and in the case of credible threats.
In response to the ruling, the Long Beach Police Officers’ Association issued the following statement: “It is unfortunate that the majority of the Court does not recognize the safety concerns created for officers and their families involved in critical incidents when their names are released publicly.
“It is the uncomfortable truth that releasing an officer’s name affirmatively endangers the officer and his/her family.”
The case arises from a public records act request by The Los Angeles Times that sought the names of two Long Beach police officers involved in the 2010 fatal shooting of a man holding a garden hose.
The police union asked a court to block the release of the names of officers Victor Ortiz and Jeffrey Shurtleff, who shot 35-year old Douglas Zerby on Dec. 12, 2010, believing — mistakenly — that he was holding a gun.
Police claimed initially that Zerby was pointing the pistol-like water nozzle at Ortiz, prompting Shurtleff to open fire. Los Angeles County prosecutors concluded in November 2011 that the shooting was justified.
Zerby’s family was awarded $6.5 million by a federal jury in April 2013.
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