Below is an excerpt from a joint investigation done by ColorLines and the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute on the prevalence of Fresno cops involved in shootings that are still on duty
A thwarted attempt by the San Diego Tribune seven years ago to obtain disciplinary records for a deputy sheriff has rewritten police accountability across California. That case wound up at the California Supreme Court, which issued a sweeping ruling, Copley Press v. Superior Court, in August 2006. Though the ruling attracted some attention at the time it was issued, in August 2006, and a short-lived effort at repeal, there has been no comprehensive attempt to assess its impact. An investigation by ColorLines and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute has found that the decision, combined with state laws that protect police privacy, has blocked the public from knowing whether local police officers have engaged in misconduct, or a pattern of misconduct, even when such misconduct involves officers inappropriately shooting civilians.
A California Public Records Act Request uncovered a previously withheld list of 27 Fresno police officers involved in repeat shootings of civilians from 2002 through 2009, 25 of whom, according to an official with the Fresno Police Department, are still on active duty today. Of these 27 officers, four were involved in at least three separate shooting incidents over the same period. One officer, Michael Palomino, was involved in four shooting incidents. In the context of a statewide investigation focusing in on four major police departments, the Fresno Police Department stands out in scale. During the same period, the similarly sized Oakland Police Department had only five officers involved in repeat shootings, although Fresno enjoys a much lower crime rate.
Dep. Chief Robert Nevarez, head of the Fresno Police Department’s Professional Standards Division, which oversees the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, said he had been unaware of the number of officers involved in repeat shootings. However, Nevarez stood by the quality of the department’s Internal Affairs investigations and stressed the need to review each shooting individually: “It’s very important for us to review them [shootings by officers] on their own merits,” Nevarez said. “We’re policing a very dangerous population.”