UC faculty oppose group hired to investigate UC Davis pepper spraying incident

UC faculty members sent a message to UC President Mark Yudof Nov. 27 in opposition to the security group hired for the purpose of investigating the pepper spraying of students at UC Davis.

The Council of University of California Faculty Associations — a group that represents UC faculty members outside of university leadership — sent a letter to Yudof protesting his Nov. 22 decision to hire the Kroll Security Group and its chair William Bratton to conduct the investigation.

Yudof announced his decision to hire the group after UC Davis police pepper sprayed students involved in a Nov. 18 campus Occupy protest, leading to systemwide backlash and national media attention.

The council objected to the “conflicts of interest of Kroll Security itself,” citing the group’s close ties with UC security systems in the past as an obstacle to an objective, independent report.

“If they’re hired by at least three UC campuses to provide security over the last several years without the contracts or payments disclosed, we don’t know whether Kroll is being essentially asked to investigate protocols that it has itself devised,” said Robert Meister, president of the council and professor of political and social thought at UC Santa Cruz.

The company has provided employee background checks and security plans to UC campuses over the past several years, according to UC Associate Vice President for Communications Lynn Tierney.

“We hired (The Kroll Group) because they have expertise in the best practices and newest trends in policing all across the country,” Tierney said. “They’re aware of emerging issues.  These are people who have expertise in conducting an independent, fact-finding investigation.”

Faculty members also raised concerns about the group’s involvement in the operations of several major financial institutions worldwide.

“By deepening UC’s links to Kroll, you would be illustrating the kinds of connections between higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting,” the association’s letter said. “We strongly agree with the need for an independent organization. We believe, however, that your appointment of Kroll could itself become a basis for new protests.”

Meister said the company has provided “damage control and security for the very financial institutions that are under protest” and that an independent committee of students, faculty, staff and civil liberties groups would be better suited to conduct the investigation.

In an effort to provide objective oversight of the police officers’ actions, Yudof announced Monday morning at the UC Board of Regents meeting that he had appointed former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso to chair the task force charged with overseeing the group’s investigation.

Tierney said Bratton and his group will investigate the command structure, timeline and situations of individuals who were present at the incident.

The group will then report its findings to a task force headed by Reynoso. After review of the report, the task force will make recommendations for new policy implementation to Yudof.

According to Vice Chair of the UC systemwide Academic Senate Robert Powell, the purpose of Reynoso’s oversight of the group’s investigation is to “ensure the integrity of the process.”