California Supreme Court  justices

By Maura Dolan
March 4, 2014, 12:13 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — 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 indentifying them to the public.

The court was hearing a case stemming from a 2010 Public Records Act request by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Winton to the city of Long Beach. Winton asked for the names of officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, Douglas Zerby, three days earlier, and the names of Long Beach officers involved in shootings during the prior five years.

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