A select group of people in San Diego has so far seen a very hot document: The police report detailing what happened in an incident at about 4 p.m. last Thursday involving City Council District 3 candidate John Hartley.
Now that document is currently housed at City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s office. I’ve been on the phone to Aguirre all morning trying to figure out if he’s going to give me a copy of the report, in the interests of open government, an issue for which he says he’s a champion.
First some back story:
Hartley was arrested on Thursday afternoon after a Kensington resident reported that he was urinating into a cup and masturbating in his truck that was parked in the 4600 block of Vista Street. Hartley was booked on one count of indecent exposure and one count of soliciting a lewd act.
Last Friday morning, I spent a couple of hours on a wild-goose chase trying to get hold of the police report. I went down to the SDPD’s Midcity division office to try and get a copy. They sent me to police headquarters downtown where SDPD spokeswoman Monica Munoz told me the department would release the document within a few days, once their lawyers had redacted it.
Last night, I finally got a copy of the “report.” It was almost entirely blanked out and contained little, if any, information that wasn’t already in the open. I thought it might be an April Fools Day joke, but apparently not.
According to Terry Francke, an expert on public records law, under California law, the SDPD doesn’t have to give me or anyone else an un-redacted copy of the report. It’s completely up to their discretion what they want to make public and when.
Well, now another public agency, the City Attorney’s Office, has a copy of the full police report. And, similarly, it’s up to their discretion whether they want to give us the document. It’s basically up to Aguirre — the ball’s in his court.
Now Aguirre’s in a tricky position here. He’s the apparent champion of open government, but he’s also essentially faced with going against the wishes of the Police Department by making the document public when they clearly don’t want it to be.
And lurking in the background is the fact that Hartley still has the endorsement of the Police Officer’s Association, though it seems that endorsement’s hanging from a thread right now.
Aguirre told me he’s going to be having a “powwow” at his office this afternoon to figure out what to do.
Although we have managed to dig up some of the details of the police report, it’s still going to be very interesting to see what Aguirre does. There’s still a whole lot of detail that’s missing on this case, and lots of people want to know what happened.