Union fights re­lease of 2012 shoot­ing re­port

Pasadena po­lice ask ap­peals court to back con­fi­den­tial­ity in Ken­drec McDade shoot­ing case.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Richard Win­ton

More than three years af­ter two Pasadena po­lice of­fi­cers fa­tally shot an un­armed black teenager, a state ap­peals court heard ar­gu­ments this week from the po­lice union, which is try­ing to block re­lease of an in­de­pen­dent re­port on the killing.

Por­tions of that re­port re­leased dur­ing the le­gal bat­tle called the slay­ing “trou­bling ” and said the shoot­ing was pre­ceded by tac­ti­cal mis­takes.

For about two hours Wed­nes­day, a three- judge panel from the 2nd Dis­trict Court of Ap­peal ques­tioned an at­tor­ney for the Pasadena Po­lice Of­fi­cers’ Assn. as well as lawyers rep­re­sent­ing those who want the re­port re­leased, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les Times and the teen’s mother.

Richard Shinee, an at­tor­ney for the union, told the jus­tices that the two of­fi­cers in­volved gave vol­un­tary state­ments to crim­i­nal homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tors. But, he said, the depart­ment used those state­ments in a sub­se­quent per­son­nel re­view.

“The chief of po­lice re­lied on those state­ments to de­cide if they vi­o­lated [ ad­min­is­tra­tive] pol­icy,” Shinee said.

The in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant’s re­port, which was con­ducted for the city, used the pri­vate per­son­nel in­for­ma­tion, so the en­tire re­port should be with­held from the public, he said.

The re­port has been kept

se­cret since it was com­pleted last sum­mer. The Pasadena po­lice union rep­re­sent­ing Of­fi­cers Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Grif­fin, who shot and killed Ken­drec McDade on March 24, 2012, sued to block the re­port’s re­lease. The union con­tended the as­sess­ment of the of­fi­cers’ ac­tions was legally pro­tected per­son­nel in­for­ma­tion.

But dur­ing oral ar­gu­ment, the jus­tices ques­tioned the no­tion that any in­for­ma­tion col­lected and put into a per­son­nel f ile is pro­hib­ited from dis­clo­sure.

Jus­tice Jeffrey John­son won­dered whether the phone book would get pro­tec­tion if it was put into an of­fi­cer’s per­son­nel f ile. He sug­gested that un­der the union’s ar­gu­ment, no shoot­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be public.

Pre­sid­ing Jus­tice Frances Roth­schild said it would be a stretch to with­hold the en­tire re­port, not­ing that the pri­vacy pro­tec­tion is for of­fi­cers, not an en­tire depart­ment.

The ap­pel­late case stemmed from a rul­ing in Novem­ber when Los An­ge­les County Su­pe­rior Court Judge James Chal­fant de­cided that most of the in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant’s re­port could be made public, with lim­ited redac­tions. The po­lice union then f iled a pe­ti­tion with the ap­pel­late court to stop the re­lease.

Kelli Sager, rep­re­sent­ing The Times, told the jus­tices that only records gen­er­ated for the spe­cific pur­pose of ap­praisal or dis­ci­pline con­sti­tute per­son­nel records and the re­port was nei­ther. She warned that the depart­ment could sim­ply “sweep up ev­ery­thing ” into per­son­nel files.

The case il­lus­trates the grow­ing di­vide be­tween po­lice unions and the public when it comes to of­fi­cer ac­count­abil­ity. Sager said that given the na­tional cli­mate, the public has more in­ter­est than ever in po­lice of­fi­cers’ use of deadly force.

“We are talk­ing about a young man shot eight times,” she told the jus­tices about McDade.

McDade was be­ing pur­sued by of­fi­cers on Sunset Av­enue when Grif­fin, in a po­lice car, cut off his path with the ve­hi­cle and, see­ing McDade’s hand at his waist­band, shot him, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

Newlen, chas­ing on foot and be­liev­ing his part­ner had come un­der f ire, shot the teenager as well.

The Pasadena Po­lice Of­fi­cers’ Assn. in­cluded sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of the re­port in le­gal pa­pers f iled with the ap­pel­late court.

The re­port by the Of­fice of In­de­pen­dent Re­view con- sult­ing group found Grif­fin and Newlen made faulty tac­ti­cal er­rors, in­clud­ing a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the of­fi­cers, their de­ci­sion to en­ter a nar­row al­ley­way and put them­selves in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion, and clos­ing their dis­tance on a sus­pect they be­lieved was armed based on a false 911 re­port.

“They re­peat­edly made tac­ti­cal de­ci­sions that were not con­gru­ent with prin­ci­ples of of­fi­cer safety,” the re­port con­cluded, ac­cord­ing to ex­cerpts con­tained in the union fil­ing.

Such tac­ti­cal mis­takes by of­fi­cers putting them­selves in a po­si­tion of dan­ger led to “the even­tual per­ceived need to use deadly force,” the re­port said.

The re­port called cer­tain ma­neu­vers by Grif­fin “trou­bling,” and con­cluded the off icer made a “po­ten­tially dis­as­trous mis­take” when he got out of the pa­trol car with­out putting it in park. Newlen sep­a­rated him­self from his part­ner to chase McDade, even though depart­ment pol­icy sug­gests that of­fi­cers stay to­gether dur­ing foot pur­suits, the re­port stated.

Both of­fi­cers were cleared of wrong­do­ing in the Po­lice Depart­ment’s in­ter­nal re­view and by the L. A. County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice. Pasadena paid about $ 1 mil­lion to set­tle wrong­fuldeath suits brought by McDade’s par­ents.

KEN­DREC MCDADE was 19 when he was fa­tally shot in March 2012.

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