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UC Berkeley blamed for mishandling campus protest

June 16, 2010 8:56:56 PM PDT
The University of California at Berkeley is getting the lion's share of the blame for a violent protest on campus late last year. Students, upset about rising fees, took over a building in late November 2009. When it was over, the place was trashed and protesters were hauled off to jail. Now, the official report on the incident has been released.

The scathing report, from the Police Review Commission, recommends a way to solve the whole problem is better communication.

Last fall, students took over Wheeler Hall and barricaded the building. UC Berkeley police admitted they were unprepared for that. The report says the department was woefully understaffed that morning when they went after the 40 people they considered trespassers. They were joined by officers from other departments in riot gear in a tense situation. There were threats of pepper spray, arrests, and beatings. The chief says they didn't expect the takeover.

"If they are going to do something, typically it is afterwards, it is after their rally, it's after their gathering, and then they decide if they're going to expand to something else. And so, clearly after the fact, that was wrong. Our judgment in that was in error," said UC Berkeley police chief Mitch Celaya.

"It would have been better with hindsight to have more officers available early that morning," said Prof. Wayne Brazil, from the Police Review Board.

"I think what we're really looking at is how we communicate before protests, during protests, and also after protests and that's getting a lot of focus right now," said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof.

"I think there needs to be multiple steps. They need to make sure all of the recommendations are implemented. We need to make sure that it is done transparently, so students are involved in the process," said Noah Stern, the president of Associated Students of the University of California.

Three specific recommendations in the report for university police are:

  • To teach officers to be friendly, even when dealing with disrespectful people.
  • Establish and train a crowd control team
  • Develop strategies for responding to occupations of campus buildings.
  • The university says they are looking for more money for the police department and for the university and community to work together and to communicate.


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