Long Beach Police Officers Association v. Long Beach (Police Transparency)
On Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010, officers from the Long Beach Police Department shot and killed 35 year-old Douglas Zerby when they mistakenly believed the garden hose nozzle he was holding was a gun. In response to the concerns that the shooting might indicate deeper problems within the police department, a Los Angeles Times journalist requested the names of the officers involved under the California Public Record Act. The requested information was not disclosed.
Under the California Public Records Act (PRA), agencies must make records readily available upon request – within ten days or, in unusual circumstances, 24 days. Both the Superior Court and a unanimous Court of Appeal properly held that the names of officers involved in shootings are not confidential under California law and must be disclosed.
In a final bid to keep the press and the public from getting access to the names of police officers who shoot members of the public, the officers have asked the California Supreme Court to reverse the lower courts. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed an amicus brief arguing that the public has a right to this information under the California Constitution and the Public Records Act.
The court heard the case on March 4, 2014. On May 29, 2014, the California Supreme Court agreed with our stance that when it comes to the disclosure of a peace officer‘s name, the public‘s substantial interest in the conduct of its peace officers outweighs, in most cases, the officer‘s personal privacy interest because the potential for abuse of power is far from insignificant.