Report on Nov. 9 says campus must learn from past protests to improve policies

Jesse Choper, UC Berkeley School of Law professor, speaks at the UCPD Police Review Board meeting, in which Nov. 9 police use of force was discussed.
Carli Baker/File
Jesse Choper, UC Berkeley School of Law professor, speaks at the UCPD Police Review Board meeting, in which Nov. 9 police use of force was discussed.

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UC Berkeley’s Police Review Board acknowledged in a report released Wednesday that the policies and procedures currently in place for dealing with protests are insufficient in ensuring the use of force by police can be avoided.

The report, which was delayed several times over the course of the year, was commissioned by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau shortly after the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal protests, during which a confrontation between demonstrators staging an encampment on Sproul Plaza and police trying to remove tents resulted in the use of batons on protesters and over 30 arrests.

The report details the events of the day leading up to the incidents in which protesters were hit with batons and forced to the ground by police, but does not give a concise ruling on whether or not police actions were justified.

“Not all members of the committee agree on the number of instances in which police conduct on November 9 was inconsistent with the campus norms, but all were disturbed by the use of batons against the student protesters captured on video and described in person,” the report reads.

In a 5 page addendum to the report, the board’s Graduate Assembly representative Eve Weissman states that while she signed the report, she also believes that “campus leadership’s preparation for and response to the day’s action was unjustified, inadequate and irresponsible.”

Weissman states in the report that the campus must create a better-staffed, independent and transparent board if they truly wish to avoid future use of force by campus police.

Both the ASUC and campus Graduate Assembly issued a joint statement which reiterated Weissman’s point by questioning the existence of the board in its current form, due to its failure to produce the report in a timely manner.

“Perhaps, we should even consider replacing the PRB with a body that has more formal authority to implement change on our campus and ensure that situations of excessive use of force do not occur in the future,” the statement reads.

The two governing bodies also found the overall report and the campus’ response to protests unsatisfactory.

“We’ve had no shortage of protests on this campus in the last 50 years, and we learn from each one,” law professor Jesse Choper, chairperson of the board, said following the report’s release.

Choper said the use of batons is authorized in specific circumstances and has been used in response to protests in recent years.

The report references the findings of the preceding Bundy and Brazil reports, written following campus protests in 1997 and 2009, respectively, and what the board views as a failure by campus to sufficiently follow the findings of these reports in preparing for future protests.

Following Nov. 9, the Edley-Robinson report was commissioned by UC President Mark Yudof to assess campus response to protests on all the UC campuses. The report was released on April 27 and outlines 50 policy recommendations for improving the handling of protests systemwide.

Although the original charge was for the report to be released by the end of January, Choper said that the process was repeatedly delayed due to scheduling conflicts and the extensive number of hearings that were involved.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that two salient conclusions should be taken away from the report — that the campus can and should do a better job maintaining free speech while protecting the rights of all of those on campus, and that it needs to improve protocols related to protest in the future.

“I would suggest that if you examine our actions subsequent to November, we’ve had a number of protests that have been resolved without the use of force,” Mogulof said. “The campus has learned and taken to heart important lessons from November.”

In a statement issued by Birgeneau following the report’s release, the chancellor states that the campus will continue to clarify its policies to improve responses to future protests on campus. Birgeneau acknowledges that the campus’ handling of the Nov. 9 protest was at times not in keeping with the campus’ fundamental values of preserving free speech.

“We truly regret that our processes are not adequate for dealing with the particular challenges of that day,” Birgeneau’s statement reads.

Adelyn Baxter is the news editor.