When an appellate court ruled recently that Pasadena police must release more information on the 2012 police shooting of Azusa High School graduate and former Citrus student Kendrec McDade, no one was more relieved than McDade’s mother Anya Slaughter.
“It means more to what I’ve been saying all along, that the Pasadena Police are trying to cover up my son’s death,” Slaughter said. “Not only me, but also the public should know what happened. Me, first and foremost, as his mom.”
Despite the Pasadena Police Officers Association oppositions, the three-judge panel reasserted the Los Angeles Superior Court’s decision on September 17 to make most of the document public.
The city had previously said it would release 80 percent of the report and redact the remainder on the grounds that the information withheld pertained to protected personnel material. However, the appeals court found the lower court “went too far” by allowing 20 percent of the report to be redacted.
“Our review of the materials in the record reveals that some of the material the court ordered redacted from the report is unrelated to personnel files of individual officers,” said Justice Jeffrey Johnson, who wrote the decision.
McDade, who attended classes at Citrus College in fall of 2011, was shot by Officers Jeffery Newlen and Matthew Griffin, both white, who were responding to a 911 call. The caller claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint on March 24, 2012 shortly after 11 p.m.
According to the report, as the officers approached McDade, he began running. Officer Griffin fired four shots from inside the patrol car at McDade. Officer Newlen, who was pursuing McDade on foot, fired another four shots, killing him.
It was later discovered that McDade was not armed.
After the shooting, city officials retained an independent consulting firm, the Office of Independent Review, to review procedural policies regarding the incident.
Pasadena police, who were unavailable for comment at press time, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the FBI, cleared Newlen and Griffin of any misconduct but residents demanded to see the OIR report, which was completed in August 2014.
In September 2014, petitioners on behalf of the PPOA filed an ex parte application seeking to enjoin the city from releasing any portion of the OIR report, arguing that doing so would violate the privacy rights of the officers involved.
Although the city of Pasadena paid about $1 million to settle wrongful death suits brought by McDade’s parents’, for Slaughter, last Thursday’s decision was not about money, but a step toward what she says she wants most– the truth.
“I want to know what happened to my son. It is not going to bring him back, but it will give me some kind of closure to my heart as to what happened,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter remembers her son taking classes at Citrus and at Pasadena City College in the hope of pursuing a career in law. She asserts she will continue to push for full disclosure of the police report.
“We are one step closer, and I’m not going to stop fighting,” Slaughter said. “We’re going to push for better police oversight in the Pasadena police dept.”
Attorney Dale Gronemeier, who is representing Slaughter and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, marks the appeals court decision as one step closer to the parties’ goal for increased transparency.
“We believed all along that the city over-redacted the McDade shooting in order to protect the police department and administration under the guise of protecting the privacy rights of the individual officers,” Gronemeier said. “This is a court of appeal decision that strongly stands for maximum transparency while still protecting the privacy rights of police officers.”
In Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Pasadena city officials voted 5-3 to not file an appeal to the California Supreme Court.
Gronemeier points out that the deputy city attorneys office has already received an order from the court of appeal requiring a look at the appendix that the court of appeal indicates are additional items that should not have been redacted.
There is no timetable to when more of the unredacted OIR report will be released, but both Gronemeier and Slaughter call this decision a major victory.
“There is a lot going on in that department that’s not being said, that’s been kept under the rug, and it is not fair to me as a mother and for the community,” Slaughter said.
The appeals court ruling states: “there can be no legitimate dispute that the report is public record. The information and analysis contained in the report is precisely the sort the disclosure of which will promote public scrutiny of and agency accountability for specific usues of deadly forces,” Johnson said.
Gronemeier said the decision will open discussion to the bigger issue of police transparency and oversight.
“We give our police officers enormous power, power to take away the life and liberty of citizens, and that requires [having] meaningful accountability for those awesome powers,” he said.
“That requires transparency.”