Let’s See If California Decides We Have the Right to Know Which Cops Shoot People

And they never need to be reloaded! Terrifying!Credit: Mark Turnauckas / Foter / CC BYA Los Angeles Times reporter wanted to know the names of the officers who shot Long Beach man Douglas Zerby to death in 2010 for the deadly crime of holding a garden hose nozzle. Long Beach officials refused to tell him, nor provide the names of any Long Beach officers involved in shootings for the previous five years.

The Long Beach police officer’s union has been fighting to keep the secret and has been losing in court. Today, the Los Angeles Times reports the case making it all the way to California’s Supreme Court. The Times seems to think they might win this one:

The California Supreme Court appeared inclined during a hearing Tuesday to favor a ruling that the public has the right to know the names of police officers involved in shootings.

During oral arguments, most members of the state high court seemed skeptical of contentions by police agencies that officer names must be kept secret because disclosure could jeopardize officer safety and involve protected police personnel matters.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, whose husband is a retired police lieutenant, suggested that the California Public Records Act contains a presumption in favor of disclosure and does not provide for blanket exemptions.

Justice Marvin R. Baxter questioned whether police agencies would refuse to release the names of officers involved in acts of heroism.

And Justice Goodwin Liu noted that officers wear nameplates identifying them to the public.

The officers were cleared of misconduct, but the city was still ordered to pay $6.5 million to the victim’s family following a federal lawsuit where the jury determined the officers were negligent and violated Zerby’s rights.

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  • dannye||

    Night and fog.

  • Agammamon||

    Hiding and shooting from concealment with no warning.

  • Paul.||

    pay $6.5 million to the victim’s family following a federal lawsuit where the jury determined the officers were negligent and violated Zerby’s rights

    So, $6.5 million the going rate for a get-out-of-murder-charges card? Good to know.

  • AlgerHiss||

    US civilian peace keeping is completely out of control: You will trust any cop these days at your peril.

    A firm, friendly boot needs placed on every cops neck. Either that, or you'll watch this awful situation escalate further.

  • Paul.||

    An autopsy showed that Zerby had been shot 12 times. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.42% and had valium and THC in his system at the time of his death.

    Clearly, Zerby deserved his fate.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Good thing the poor bastard didn't get a chance to return fire and wing one of the cops. The cops would have a tough time reconciling how to keep the names of the shooters out of the public eye after they gave them medals.

    What do you mean what medals?

    Cops shot in the line of fire ALWAYS get medals

    Seriously, if you were the state's lawyer, how do you make any of these claims with a straight face?

  • AlgerHiss||

    Cops, by far, are the number one group that breaks their own arms patting themselves on the back.

    While construction folks, roofers and farmers have far more dangerous jobs.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Well, if they don't pat themselves on the back who else is gonna do it?

    There may be some cop lovers who give them a pass on most things, but I think even they would look askance at giving out medals for a) going to the wrong house and b) not even being able to kill anything despite shooting up the house.

  • wwhorton||

    The pizza guy who delivers to the most dangerous public housing in my very small city isn't permitted under Maryland law to carry a handgun. The city cops who won't respond to calls in that neighborhood wear body armor, have handguns on their hips, and shotguns in their trunks.

  • Virginian||

    More importantly, they'll be avenged. If you kill a cop, your life is forfeit. If you kill a pizza guy, you might get thirty years on a plea deal, assuming you get caught in the first place.

    Knights and peasants dude.

  • croaker||

    That government penis isn't going to suck itself...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Considering they have no qualms about handing out information on the "civilians" they arrest (before conviction) this disclosure doesn't seem out of line.

  • Paul.||

    What union do you belong to?

    Exactly.

  • wwhorton||

    ...contentions by police agencies that officer names must be kept secret because disclosure could jeopardize officer safety...

    These'll be the same officers who are carrying handcuffs, pistols, and pepper spray, and seem to be operating under ROE that permit the use of any of these against anyone whom they deem a threat? Same ones who frequently patrol in pairs or groups, and who can summon backup within minutes before they even make contact with the victim suspect?

    If they really want to ensure officer safety, maybe they should train them to stop shooting unarmed, innocent bystanders and "suspects." I'd bet that people would be less likely to want to kill police if said police weren't running around shooting dogs, old people, veterans, kids, and brown people because they felt nervous, or didn't feel that their authority was being adequately respected, or just needed some paid leave.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Maybe this is just a clever ploy by the state to get out from under their police contracts?

    "Sorry we meant to pay you, but we can't get any proof from the state that you are actually employed by the police department."

  • The Late P Brooks||

    During oral arguments, most members of the state high court seemed skeptical of contentions by police agencies that officer names must be kept secret because disclosure could jeopardize officer safety and involve protected police personnel matters.

    Oh, no. Policemen having to accept responsibility for their actions?

  • sarcasmic||

    My stepson's father is a cop. In my his own words "My dad is a cop! He can do whatever he wants!"

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    So your spouse... is the kind who had a relationship with a cop?

  • R C Dean||

    Tani Cantil-Sakauye, whose husband is a retired police lieutenant,

    So I guess he's a dead man walking, now that he's been identified to the public as a cop.

    Maybe he'll get a reprieve because he's retired, but that's probably his only hope for surviving the next few days.

  • croaker||

    Federal law says he can carry a gun for the rest of his life, no begging for a permit. To paraphrase Penn Jillette, officer safety is bullshit.

  • Almanian!||

    Seems to me the appropriate question is "on what basis should this information NOT be public?" Make your case, assholes.

    And, no, "occifer safety" doesn't fly.

    Fucking assholes.

  • Stevie Nichts||

    So let's be sure we understand this: In the most liberal state in the US, lower courts have decided that "the people's right to know" doesn't apply to people who shoot other people... when they wear a badge. Do non-cops get that same discretion? Didn't think so.

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