Report on UC Davis pepper spray incident blames administrators, police

UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper sprays demonstrators who had linked arms and were preventing attempts by the police to remove arrested protesters.
Jasna Hodzic/Courtesy
UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper sprays demonstrators who had linked arms and were preventing attempts by the police to remove arrested protesters.

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An investigative report released at noon Wednesday lambasted UC Davis administrators and police officials for their handling of a Nov. 18 protest in which police pepper-sprayed student demonstrators.

The 190-page report faults ineffectual administrative decision-making, poor police planning and weak chains of communication for the pepper-spraying. Along with the findings of a task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, the report includes another study by the Kroll consulting company hired to investigate the incident.

“We aren’t making anybody happy with our report because we found a lot that did happen that shouldn’t have happened,” Reynoso said in a town hall meeting Wednesday at UC Davis.

UC Davis administrators and police officials failed to adequately question the timing of police action, the necessity and legality of police force and the claim that many protesters were not UC Davis students, the report states.

The pepper-spraying began shortly after police raided an Occupy Davis encampment organized the day before.

A team of UC Davis administrators and police officials decided to take down the tents out of fear that many protesters were not students — although there was little evidence to support this claim — and that incidents could occur between unaffiliated protesters and students that would harm the community, the report states.

The report adds that administrators and police officials did not carry out the raid at the right time.

“Three o’clock in the afternoon on a sunny fall day at the center of the campus Quad seems guaranteed to bring the maximum number of onlookers and protesters to the scene, and in fact this is exactly what occurred,” the Kroll report states.

The report also takes issue with a disorganized chain of command during the protest, where lieutenants did not always follow directives by then-Police Chief Annete Spicuzza.

Lt. John Pike and unidentified “Officer O” employed pepper spray although they was not authorized to do so, and had not been trained to use the more powerful type of pepper spray they had. The spray was also used improperly at too close of a distance.

In a press release Wednesday, state assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said she will pursue legislation based on the report.

She said the unauthorized use of the pepper spray “gives great weight to the Task Force’s recommendation that changes must be made involving the training, organization, and operation of UC Police Departments.”

The report’s recommendations to strengthen oversight and responses of campus leadership during protests include re-training officers and designating a senior official responsible for overseeing protests and civil disobedience.

The report stops short of recommending disciplinary action for police officers or administrators. Instead, a campus police Internal Affairs investigation will handle administrative sanctions and “would address disciplinary action for the police officers.”

That investigation, however, is confidential. The officers subjected to the investigation declined to be interviewed by the Reynoso task force.

The release of the report follows weeks of litigation between a police officers union and the UC due to union concerns over privacy issues. The two parties struck an agreement Tuesday to redact most officers’ names but keep critiques of their actions in the report.

In the town hall, Reynoso said he was grateful that the agreement allows for the public release of the report, so that the actions of those involved are understood and worked through for future incidents.

UC President Mark Yudof agreed.

“We can and must do better,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chancellor Katehi to repair the damage caused by this incident and to move this great campus forward.”

View the full report below.

Staff writer Jeremy Gordon contributed to this report.

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  • Cullain

    If you know that the police you are dealing with are thugs, like Lt Pike, but are still convinced that protesting is the appropriate action to take, then take the time to prepare yourself for their inevitable, and frankly limited, thought processes. They have a belt full of toys and are itching for an excuse to use them. At the same time as he is showing off his toys to the surrounding crowd, take the $2 swimmers goggles and 50c dust mask you brought with you and put them on, placing the goggles over your eyes and holding the dust mask over your mouth and nose. Voila, with a physical barrier between your eyes/nose/mouth and the spray, their much vaunted toy becomes practically useless and they will be forced to adopt different tactics.

  • Titania

    Wow, I just love how the report/verdict completely ignores the fact that THIS MAN PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED A DOZEN PEOPLE WITHOUT PROVOCATION and isn’t being arrested for it. You KNOW they’re not going to do anything for it. Cops are above the law. They don’t have accountability like we do. They get to illegally batter you and just be suspended from work for it, instead of facing a dozen separate counts of assault/battery and the appropriate jail time.

    • Titania

      Effing stormtroopers is what they are.

  • University Of Fail

    “and that incidents could occur between unaffiliated protesters and students that would harm the community”

    In other words, the UC Davis administration lives in abject fear that students – all of whom are at or above the age of majority – will be harmed merely by interacting with anything the administration does not control.

    That’s what they get paid the big bucks for, to believe they are kings, that UC is their fiefdom, and to rule in a manner commensurate with their paranoia.

    The administration pays ***** *******, esquire, and his handful of cronies to sow fear. An atmosphere of fear among the students, the parents, the politicians and that’s what makes a situation ripe for a power grab. All in the name of ‘protecting the children’.

    We’ll they got what they paid for, he scared the crap out of the administration to the point of rendering it dysfunctional.
    Was it worth it?

    • Guest

       Seriously. These kids are some of the smartest in the state, and people treat them as though they don’t know what they are doing. They know EXACTLY what they are doing, and going out and entering real world politics (yeah, your voting is just so effective these days isn’t it?) is not something to deride them for. These kids had the metaphorical balls to SIT THERE on the ground while being hit with military grade pepper spray for something they believe in…do you?

      • Guest

        Here’s the problem: “prolonged adolescence”.  These are not “kids”, as you keep calling them.  they are grown adults.  The campus police are also not chaperones, though they are handling the students with kit gloves relative to how they would deal with members of the general public who would trespass on campus and be a general nuisance.  You know how in many cultures there are rites of passage into adulthood at the age of 13?  Yeah, well, by 18 they’re DEFINITELY adults and can be tried as adults.    They.  Are.  Not.  Kids.