California newspaper sues university for access to police reports

The Sacramento Bee filed a lawsuit against the University of California at Davis Jan. 16 to obtain university police reports.

The Bee took legal action after the university declined to provide 13 police reports filed between August 1996 and January 2000 relating to crimes at a medical center in Sacramento and an additional crime on the Davis campus.

The Bee filed a public records act request with the university Oct. 31 and asked university officials to release a series of documents to substantiate claims by officers within the UC Davis Police Department alleging that crimes had gone underreported at the university in the past.

On Dec. 15 the university refused to release the police reports, citing a 1993 court case that UC officials argued allowed them to refuse to provide information about investigations that are no longer active and suspects who are no longer in the criminal justice system.

The lawsuit represents a culmination in a series of confrontations between the newspaper and administrative officials at the University of California that have occurred since the paper ran two stories in September questioning the accuracy of the university's crime-reporting practices.

According to Rick Rodriguez, executive editor at The Sacramento Bee, both sides are prepared to argue that they are in the right.

"We're going to be headed to court because we think the public has a right to know and these records should be open to scrutiny," Rodriguez said. "[UC-Davis officials] believe these records put them in legal jeopardy, so we have a real disagreement"