Hazing News

Our Position: The Public and the Press Do Have a Right to Know about California Police Hazing

We back this freedom of information request 100 percent by the Appeal-Democrat to obtain records of law enforcement officers that hazed. The Appeal-Democrat should link the events in the firing to the proposed California hazing law to see if wrongdoing would have been classified criminal. There is no way of knowing so unless those records become public. Moderator.


Paper opposing secrecy
By Daniel Thigpen/Appeal-Democrat
The Appeal-Democrat is seeking permission from the Yuba County court to argue against two former law enforcement agents who are trying to keep their termination records secret.
Two peace officers have sued their former public employers to get their jobs back but have asked the court to seal the associated records. Both have said in court papers that the public does not have a right to know the details of their firings.

The newspaper is not a party to either lawsuit but is asking to be allowed to formally oppose sealing the records.
Bobby Cooper, a former Yuba County Sheriff’s deputy, was fired in connection with a 2003 hazing incident that injured a fellow deputy. He sued last month, asking the court to set aside his 2004 termination and to require the department to give him a less severe punishment.

Former Marysville police officer Leonard Cummings sued the city last month for firing him in 2004 for reasons not specified in its lawsuit. City officials upheld the decision after arbitration, according to his lawsuit.

Both are arguing that their punishments were too severe, and both are asking to debate that away from the public.

Cooper and Cummings are represented by the same Sacramento attorney, Steven Welty, whose arguments for sealing the records in each case are similar.

In both lawsuits, Welty argues that disclosure of the documents would cause his clients embarrassment if their jobs are reinstated and that they also would name other officers involved.

Judge Timothy Evans will decide today if the Appeal-Democrat can file a request to intervene in the Cooper case.

On April 24, Judge Dennis Buckley will decide whether to grant a request to intervene already filed by the newspaper in the Cummings case. He also will decide whether to seal the records that day.

Although not subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act, public access to court records is protected by other state statues.

According to state law, most court records in criminal and civil cases can only be sealed by statute or court order if the benefit of withholding the information outweighs the public’s constitutional right to access.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Thigpen can be reached at 749-4713. You may e-mail him at

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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