When UC Berkeley administrators or police mismanage a controversial protest, steps must be taken to ensure such situations are handled better in the future. That’s one of the reasons the campus has a Police Review Board, and it’s why the university launched a systemwide review following the tumultuous protests last fall.
Yet reports following major campus demonstrations indicate that little changed in the campus’s response to protests. For instance, the Police Review Board’s report on last November’s Occupy Cal protests determined that the police use of batons against protesters resulted from the campus’s failure to implement changes recommended in an older report regarding the 2009 Wheeler Hall occupation. In the two years between the 2009 Wheeler Hall occupation and Occupy Cal, it seems like little, if anything, changed in the campus’s approach to protests. That is unacceptable.
Additionally, the final systemwide report asked UC campuses to “establish a communication link” with organizers of protests, while the Wheeler Hall report made a similar recommendation. The campus made some laudable progress in that area this spring when it announced the creation of a Protest Response Team that will designate an on-site senior administrator to authorize police action during protests. Regardless, such a team should have been created sooner.
In the grand scheme of things, two years is a relatively small amount of time to instill major policy changes. But the similarity of recommendations in these reports and the slow rate at which tangible changes are coming into fruition is troubling. It removes some legitimacy from the idea that extensive reports on protests are a worthwhile investment. Police review boards and systemwide reviews should be meaningful processes that produce results, not just additional layers of bureaucracy.
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