UC set to argue in court for release of UC Davis pepper spray report

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The judge presiding over Friday’s hearing on whether to allow the release of a task force report on the Nov. 18 UC Davis pepper-spray incident signaled his intent to permit the report’s release in a tentative ruling late Thursday afternoon.

In his 16-page tentative ruling, Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo contended that the release of the report would not infringe upon the privacy of officers involved in the incident as the Federated University Police Officers Association has argued in its efforts to halt public disclosure of the report.

But, to allow the union time to appeal, Grillo placed a stay on the order preventing the release of the task force report. Now, the task force will not be allowed to release their report until April 2, to allow the Court of Appeals to consider an appeal should one be filed.

The task force led by Cruz Reynoso — former California Supreme Court Justice — was charged with investigating the pepper spray incident and providing recommendations to UC President Mark Yudof and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi as to how the UC “can ensure that the rights and safety of nonviolent protestors and the entire campus community are protected,” according to a statement from Yudof.

“We are encouraged by this positive development,” said UC General Counsel Charles Robinson in a press release. “Because it’s a tentative ruling, it would be premature to comment further until the hearing scheduled for tomorrow concludes.”

On Friday morning, attorneys for the University of California will formally present arguments for the release of the task force report.

The report was scheduled to be released on March 6 but was delayed because the association which represents campus police, including an officer involved in the pepper-spray incident, requested a court order preventing the release of the report in order to protect the confidentiality of officers involved.

The attorneys will argue against the union’s claim that the release of the report would breach an involved officer’s privacy by publicizing his personnel record.

“If the … (r)eport is deemed to be a confidential peace officer ‘personnel record’ merely because it mentions and makes observations about individual police officers who were involved in widely publicized events, the University’s ability to be responsive and address the legitimate concerns of students, faculty, and other constituents will be severely hampered,” the attorneys for the UC wrote in a brief filed with the court on March 13.

Both Reynoso and Yudof have said they are committed to making the report available to the public in its entirety.

Curan Mehra covers higher education.