Pepper spraying: Report targets UC administration, police

After a month of legal wrangling, a 190-page report investigating the Nov. 18 pepper-spray incident at UC Davis was released to the public on Wednesday.

The report had been delayed by concerns from the campus police union that it would violate the privacy of the officers involved. The university and the union eventually reached a settlement, in which the names of the officers would be redacted, with the exception of Lt. John Pike and Chief Annette Spicuzza. 

“I am pleased to be here at long last,” said Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court Justice who headed the special task force authoring the report.

The report also includes an assessment by Kroll Associates, a consulting firm that was commissioned to complete its own investigation.

Reynoso and the task force put blame squarely on the university administration, writing that the incident “should and could have been prevented.” 

“The scope of the police operation to remove the tents was ineffectively communicated,” the task force wrote.   

The response from students was muted, in comparison to the outpour of support last Nov. About 400 members of the UC Davis community attended the town hall meeting, in contrast to the thousands that gathered on the quad for a rally in support of those who were pepper-sprayed.

Bryan McPartlan, a senior political science major, expressed concern about the administration’s handling of recent Occupy protests, which involved shutting down student services and the campus U.S. Bank branch.

“The pepper-spray incident is holding back the chancellor’s ability to respond to these protests,” McPartlan said.

Some had a different take, with one student saying that despite the release of the report, the administration is continuing to “repress” students.

“Chancellor Katehi needs to leave, and the UC Police Department needs to leave,” said Geoffrey Wildanger, a graduate student who was pepper-sprayed and is now being charged for blocking access to the campus U.S. Bank.

He said that students are now “scared” to protest.

UC spokesman Peter King disagreed with the need for Katehi to resign, noting that UC President Mark G. Yudof is “one-hundred percent behind” her.

In a statement released by Chancellor Katehi on Wednesday, she expressed hope that the recommendations from the panel would be fully implemented.

“We will immediately begin to study and assess the reports’ recommendations and develop a detailed response and action plan,” she wrote.

UC Davis spokesman Barry Shiller expressed similar optimism.

“We believe we have started down the right track,” he said.

State leaders, on the other hand, sounded a more critical view.

“The findings in this report make it clear that immediate and demonstrative action must be taken by the Chancellor and UC President to restore the public trust in UC Davis and the UC system,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a statement.

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez agreed. Perez said that campus administrators “must be held accountable in addressing the very troubling revelations that this report has brought to light.”

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