Independent Panel Critical of UC Davis Campus Police, Chancellor in Pepper-Spray Incident

The UC Davis task force investigating the infamous incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed seated student protesters last November has released its report, which you can read below. The report was critical of the university’s handling of the incident, laying blame on both the administration and UC police. It opens with:

“Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented.”

Below are some of the headline conclusions, which call out the failures of specific individuals in their handling of the Occupy-like student demonstration that day…

  • The Pepper Spray Used, the MK- 9, First Aerosol Projector, Was Not an Authorized Weapon for Use by the UCDPD
  • The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Decision to Deploy the Police at 3 p.m. Rather than During the Night or Early Morning, Which is a Tactical Decision Properly Reserved for Police
  • The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Failure to Communicate Her Position that the Police Operation Should Avoid Physical Force
  • Many Members of the Leadership Team, Including the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor Meyer, and Vice Chancellor Wood, Share Responsibility for the Decision to Remove the Tents on Friday and, as a Result, the Subsequent Police Action Against Protesters
  • Lt. Pike Bears Primary Responsibility for the Objectively Unreasonable Decision to Use Pepper Spray on the Students Sitting in a Line and for the Manner in Which the Pepper Spray Was Used
  • Chief Spicuzza Bears Individual Responsibility for Failing to Challenge the Leadership Team’s Decision on the Time of the Police Operation and for Not Clarifying the Role the Police Were Expected to Play During the Operation. She is also Responsible for Numerous Deviations from Best Police Practices Both Before and During the Operation as Detailed in the Kroll Report.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Report

Response from UC President Mark Yudof:

I want to thank Justice Reynoso and members of the Task Force for the long hours and hard work they invested in this effort to fully understand the events of Nov. 18 and to propose remedies that might prevent similar incidents in the future.

My intent now is to give the Task Force report the full and careful reading it deserves, and then, as previously announced, to meet with Chancellor Katehi and discuss her plans going forward for implementing the recommendations.

Even a cursory reading of the report confirms what we have known from the start: Friday, Nov. 18 was a bad day for the UC Davis community and for the entire UC system.

We can and must do better. I look forward to working with Chancellor Katehi to repair the damage caused by this incident and to move this great campus forward.

The release of the Task Force report represents a significant step in that direction, which is why we fought hard in court to ensure that it would be brought into public light in as full and unfettered fashion as possible.

I also am expecting to receive within the next few weeks the results of the expansive effort, led by UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr., to address how we might better approach protest activities on all our campuses.

In closing, I want to reiterate what I stated at the outset of this arduous but necessary process: Free speech, including nonviolent protest, is part of the DNA of this university, and it must be protected with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful fashion, and I expect campus authorities to honor that right.

KQED News also spoke to Joseph McNamara, former San Jose police chief and research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, about the report.

Original post UC Davis is scheduled to release the findings of the task force it assigned to investigate the notorious incident in which campus police pepper-sprayed seated student protesters last November. The task force chair is California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso. (Reynoso, by the way, along with Rose Bird and Joseph Grodin, was ousted from the bench in a 1986 election that focused on the liberal majority’s opposition to the death penalty.)

The report is due to be released at 12 p.m. on the UC Davis web site. The task force is also scheduled to present its findings and recommendations to students, faculty and staff from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on campus.

Video of the pepper-spraying incident

Students held a silent protest outside of the Chancellor’s office the day after the incident.

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  • bean cube

    Many intelligent personnel in the police force should also accountable for the event. They all are responsible for not advice their higher ranks about the situation. They are working for the civilian community, not the book of any department including courts. They should have intelligence about the abuse of power using excessive force. They don’t qualify working for the community.

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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