State ruling on transparency for killer cops will face first test from Jurupa Valley

rQRo's picture

Here is an interesting article from the Press-Enterprise about how the recent California State Supreme Court ruling eliminating the "blanket rule," or by-default secrecy about officers who use violence against the community, will have repercussions here in the IE in relation to the recent near-shooting of Rolando Soto. Soto was shot at by a Riverside sheriff's department deputy after allegedly moving his hand, but the deputy missed. Now we want to exercise our right to have transparency concerning what public servants are shooting recklessly into neighborhoods and business districts.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Officer-involved shooting to test court ruling
Published: June 2, 2014 Updated: June 3, 2014 10:50 a.m.
An officer-involved shooting in Jurupa Valley on Saturday will be one of the first tests of a new court ruling concerning the identification of officers involved.
The shooting occurred about 48 hours after a court decided that law-enforcement agencies must release the names of the officers involved – unless authorities believe the disclosure may place the officers at risk.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has been asked to identify a deputy who fired, but missed, a Jurupa Valley robbery suspect who reached for his waistband while a deputy had his gun drawn.
Deputies were responding to a vehicle robbery Saturday evening at the Denny’s restaurant on Valley Way. Authorities said a suspect in the robbery, Rolando Soto, was chased behind a home after he was confronted by deputies when the shooting occurred. The deputy, with his weapon drawn, approached Soto and when Soto moved his hand to his waistband the deputy fired but missed. Neither Soto nor the deputy were injured. Soto was arrested at the scene.
Last week, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion that the public generally had the right to know the names of officers involved in police shootings, but the court still allowed that a department could withhold officer names if there was a specific safety threat to the officer or if it would jeopardize an investigation.
Sheriff’s officials said Monday that they were still investigating the Saturday night shooting case and evaluating any safety issues before deciding whether to identify the deputy or deputies involved.
Following the Supreme Court’s 6-1 decision, sheriff’s officials said Friday that they would generally identify deputies after determining that their safety or an investigation was not endangered.
The Sheriff’s Department’s policy was set in 2008, based on an attorney general’s opinion that also recommended naming officers. Officers are usually only identified at the request of the public or the media.
The Department reversed its policy after a Long Beach Police Department case was brought before the Supreme Court in August 2013. Since August, sheriff’s officials have not identified deputies involved in shootings.
When the policy allowing for the release of officers’ names was in effect, once a request was made, sheriff’s officials would evaluate the case, and if no specific threats were determined, a deputy’s name would be released after several days. But even during that time there were exceptions where deputies in a shooting were not been identified for their safety.
Sheriff’s officials declined to identify several deputies involved in a pair of shootings in 2008 on the Soboba Indian Reservation. Following the death of Eli Morillo on the reservation, sheriff’s officials cited safety concerns for the officers involved amid increasing tension between the tribe and authorities.
The Sheriff’s Department never did release the names of the officers involved, but nine deputies were identified a year later by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office once they were cleared of criminal charges.
In another case, sheriff’s officials withheld the name of a deputy involved in a shooting for more than a month as authorities searched for a second suspect in a Hemet drug-store shooting. After the second suspect was captured, officials released the deputy’s name.
Other Inland police departments are following similar policies in identifying officers, as long as their safety is not at risk.
Riverside police will assign two detectives to investigate a suspect’s background to determine whether there is any risk before releasing an officer’s name.
In Hemet, police policy on identifying officers in shootings has not changed, Deputy Chief Robb Webb said. The department releases information as required by law, but may be withheld in certain cases, he said. Officers are notified before their names are released.
“The bottom line is, we were already doing what the new case and the California Public Records Act states is required,” Webb said.