Report: UC System Shouldn’t Use Force to Control Protests

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California should establish strategies to manage campus protests without the use of force, according to the draft of a report commissioned by administrators.

UC administrators and police need to “recognize explicitly” how protesters use civil disobedience so as to not be drawn into confrontation, according to a draft of the report. The report offers 50 recommendations in nine areas. The report states these nine areas include:

  1. “Civil Disobedience Challenges. The Report points out the need for the University to define and communicate more clearly the free speech rights and responsibilities of all members of the University community. In particular, the University and individual campuses should amend their policies in order to recognize explicitly the historic role of civil disobedience as a protest tactic. Those policies should also make clear, however, that civil disobedience by definition involves violating laws or regulations, and that civil disobedience will generally have consequences for those engaging in it because of the impact it can have on the rest of the campus community.
  2. “Relationship Building. The University must endeavor to increase trust and understanding among campus stakeholders, by better utilizing existing communication channels and building new ones. Many protests can be avoided if there are effective lines of communication between would-be protesters and administrative officials, and opportunities to raise substantive concerns with the Administration and to obtain a meaningful response. The University’s response to protests can also be handled better and more efficiently by building strong working relationships between police officials and administrators and relationships of trust between campus police and the communities they serve.
  3. “Role Definition and Coordination. To ensure an effective University response to protests involving civil disobedience, there must be an established system for coordination between police and administrators, with well-defined roles and a shared understanding that ultimate responsibility for the campus’s response rests with the Chancellor. The Chancellor and other administrators should develop and follow a set of guidelines designed to minimize a police response to protests, and to limit the use of force against protesters wherever possible. Senior campus administrators with decision-making authority should be on site during significant protests. And greater emphasis must be placed on coordinating with outside law enforcement agencies who may provide assistance during large demonstrations.
  4. “Role Definition and Coordination. To ensure an effective University response to protests involving civil disobedience, there must be an established system for coordination between police and administrators, with well-defined roles and a shared understanding that ultimate responsibility for the campus’s response rests with the Chancellor. The Chancellor and other administrators should develop and follow a set of guidelines designed to minimize a police response to protests, and to limit the use of force against protesters wherever possible. Senior campus administrators with decision-making authority should be on site during significant protests. And greater emphasis must be placed on coordinating with outside law enforcement agencies who may provide ssistance during large demonstrations.
  5. “Communications with Protesters. With strong communications between demonstrators and the campus Administration, civil disobedience can sometimes be avoided—or, at least, can take place peacefully without any use of force by police. The Report offers recommendations regarding communication and coordination with protesters in advance of a planned event, as well as during an ongoing demonstration.
  6. “Response During Events. Once a protest is underway and individual protesters begin to engage in civil disobedience, the decisions made by administrators can directly affect whether the protest ends peacefully rather than with violence. The Report recommends several strategies for reaching a peaceful accord with protesters without resorting to the use of force by police. It also proposes adoption of policies to guide our campus police departments if the Administration decides that a police response to the protest is necessary, such as a systemwide response option framework with guidance on appropriate responses to different types of resistance.
  7. “Documenting Activity During Demonstrations. The Report recommends several parallel methods for creating an accurate record of the actions of police and demonstrators during demonstrations. These include the use of neutral observers, a policy of videotaping activity at the demonstration, and the creation of police after-action reports following any police response to a demonstration.
  8. “Post-Event Review. The Report recommends that the University adopt a systemwide structure located outside of the police department and the campus Administration for reviewing the response to civil disobedience.
  9. “Implementation. Finally, the Report suggests a process for implementing the recommendations in this Report. Most significantly, it recommends that the President require each Chancellor to take concrete action to implement our recommendations, and to report promptly to the President on his or her progress.”

The recommendations follow the use of pepper spray on UC Davis students and the striking of demonstrators with batons during an “Occupy” movement in November at UC Berkeley.

The authors of the report are posting the draft so the public and university administrators can comment on them.

Read the full story.

Read the report.

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