Report Condemns UC Davis Handling of Occupy Protests

The independent committee reviewing the pepper spraying of protesters at UC Davis in November issued its after-action report that cited numerous lapses and errors by campus administrators and officers, concluding the incident “should and could have been prevented.”

The “Reynoso Task Force Report,” which was released today, also blames Chancellor Linda Katehi, Chief Annette Spicuzza, and Lt. John Pike for mishandling the removal of Occupy protestors and their tents from the campus.

The 190-page report came from a task force that included five administrators, four students, three professors, and a county administrator. Four main sections cite deficiencies in administrative decision-making, the police operation including the use of less-lethal force, and the way key individuals handled the situation. The fourth section offers recommendations.

Administrators made “substantive mistakes” leading up to the Nov. 18 pepper spraying, according to the report, such as failing to determine whether non-students were in the Occupy encampment; not considering options other than clearing the tents; lacking effective decision-making; and being confused about whether the camp could legally be removed.

The report also took aim at the police operation. Most notably, the report claims the use of pepper spray was “not supported by objective evidence” and the MK-9 aerosol canister had not been authorized for use by officers.

While acknowledging the officers’ concerns that they were surrounded by a hostile mob, the task force said the situation escalated because no arrangements had been made to transport arrestees from the quad. The report criticizes Lt. Pike for his actions and body language, including stepping over seated protesters to “get to their faces.”

A UC Davis Police Department general order allows only MK-4 pepper spray (a smaller canister) to be used by officers.

Chancellor Katehi bears responsibility for the decision to deploy police at 3 p.m. rather than during the night or early morning, according to the report. When removing Occupy protestors, the Oakland Police Department, New York Police Department, and other agencies typically use pre-dawn sweeps to clear encampments from City Hall or parks.

Katehi also failed to convey her position that the police operation should avoid physical force, according to the report. Other administrators were told physical force may be necessary and didn’t object.

The report calls the decision to deploy officers imprudent and criticizes Chief Spicuzza for failing to effectively challenge Katehi’s 3 p.m. operation. The chief proposed removing the protestors at 3 a.m. Also, the incident commander, who goes unnamed, failed to follow ICS/SEMS command protocol.

Lastly, Lt. Pike’s decision to use pepper spray was “objectively unreasonable.” During the incident, protestors surrounded officers and chanted, “If you let them go, we will let you leave.” However, several other officers were able to move through the crowd freely, according to the report.

The report offers various remedies, and three specific recommendations for the UC Davis Police Department. The report proposes a full review of UCDPD protocols and procedures, greater student involvement in police functions, and that the department “should strive to be a model of policing.”

Read the full report here.

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