A preliminary settlement filed Wednesday at a federal court in Sacramento stipulates that the UC Regents pay about $1 million to end a lawsuit filed on behalf of students pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police officers last November.
The details of the settlement were agreed upon by the regents at a closed meeting earlier this month but still have to be approved by the court. The settlement calls on the regents to pay $30,000 to each of the 21 named plaintiffs and a total of $250,000 to their attorneys.
Apart from monetary compensation for the plaintiffs, the agreement will require UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to write personal apology notes to each of the plaintiffs for any injuries or damages they may have sustained from the incident, according to the settlement.
The settlement also changes the lawsuit to a class action suit, which would allow others who were pepper-sprayed to submit claims to receive up to $20,000 in compensation. The total amount of money given to additional claimants should not exceed $100,000, the settlement states.
These students would have to prove “they were either arrested or directly pepper-sprayed,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. “Any money paid by UC will come from the university’s General Liability Risk Program, a self-insured fund.”
In addition, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit in February, will be allowed to review written policies about police force, the handling of student demonstrations and crowd control tactics at UC Davis for two years following the settlement’s approval, according to its text.
On Nov. 18, 2011, images of UC Davis police officers pepper-spraying seated student protesters generated public outcry and led to multiple investigations into police protest response procedures and campus administrators’ oversight of campus police. A UC-commissioned report investigating the incident released in April and found that it “should and could have been prevented.”
Officials at UC Davis now aim to implement reforms to prevent the pepper-spray incident from recurring, said UC Davis spokesperson Barry Shiller.
“This is one of the most shameful moments in UC history, and we are slowly working our way towards justice for the students assaulted that day,” said UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein.
The settlement was welcomed by the ACLU and students who were involved in the settlement.
“They are taking a step in the right direction, even though nothing can change that day,” said Fatima Sbeih, one of the students in the settlement. “Hopefully other campuses realize that they cannot approach any student protest the way that our campus did. We came together to stand in solidarity with the Berkeley protesters against police brutality and this happened to us.”
Michael Risher, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said the settlement should serve as “wake-up call for other universities and police departments.”
“A settlement is something of a compromise, but no compromise can undo what happened,” Risher said. “This will, however, let the students get a measure of compensation for the pain, nightmares and panic attacks.”
The university has “done a lot of soul-searching after the events at Berkeley and Davis,” Stein said.
“The behavior of the police that day was out-of-bounds and not how to treat students, and we are ready as an institution to move forward,” he said.
Read the full settlement below: