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Judge grants hold on public release of report into pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis

Thousands rally at UC Davis Monday after Occupy protesters were pepper sprayed on campus last week. @joeja tweets:
Thousands rally at UC Davis Monday after Occupy protesters were pepper sprayed on campus last week. @joeja tweets: "I've never seen so many people on the #ucdavis quad." He tweets this photo.

A judge has granted a temporary hold on the public release of a task force report into the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters by UC Davis campus police in November.

The report, ordered by UC President Mark Yudof at the request of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, was to be released at noon today online and discussed in a public meeting this afternoon. The report provides details from an investigation into the November incident by a task force headed by former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso.

An attorney representing the campus police union and specific officers involved in the incident filed paperwork for a temporary restraining order in Alameda County Superior Court. Judge Evelio M. Grillo's order puts a hold on the release of the report for 21 days until a preliminary injunction hearing. If a preliminary injunction is granted, then the report would be held through a trial on the issue.

"The legislature has declared that peace officer personnel files and investigations of the like remain confidential, and so that's what the law provides for," said attorney Mike McGill, who represents the officers involved in the case and is general counsel for the Federated University Police Officers Association.

McGill said the report would need to come out at some point, but he had not yet read it, and neither had the officers involved.

"It would seem to me that at some point the public has a right to know what happened," McGill said. "And I think that's what everybody expects to have happen. But there's a process in place for that to occur, for them to release the investigation. For the public to have seen it before [the officers] have had a chance to respond to it, isn't the correct way, isn't the legal way.

"It's one of those things, the public demands to know what happened, but in an investigation...there are other interests at stake more than just the public's need to know, and there has to be a balancing of those interests. But, I think, at some point, it does need to come out."

The two parties will be in court for a preliminary injunction hearing March 16.

This story has been updated.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).