UC Davis pepper spray report critical of police action

April 11, 2012 7:57:16 PM PDT
The pepper spraying of peaceful UC Davis demonstrators a few months ago was excessive and uncalled for, according to an independent task force report just released Wednesday afternoon.

The task force presented its findings to the campus community and nearly all of the report is deeply critical of campus administrators, their police force and especially their use of pepper spray.

"With respect to the actual conduct of the police, there were serious faults," task force chair Cruz Reynoso said.

The head of a special task force says the use of pepper spray on UC Davis student demonstrators was completely unnecessary and the culmination of a series of mistakes made by UC Davis police and campus administration.

"Objectively, there was no reason, we conclude, to have used the pepper spray," Reynoso said.

"We're going to learn from what happened last November; it was a bad day for a great university," UC Davis spokesperson Barry Shiller said. "A lot to learn and this report will help."

In their 190 page report, former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and his colleagues found many problems with the way peaceful demonstrators were treated the afternoon of November 18, 2011, specifically, of Lt. John Pike's decision to use pepper spray on the seated protestors. The task force wrote, "The decision to use pepper spray was not supported by objective evidence and was not authorize by policy."

The report even says the type of spray Pike used, a large aerosol can called a "MK-9 First Aerosol Projector." was not an authorized weapon for UC Davis police, who had not been trained in its use.

Besides the unwarranted use of pepper spray, the Reynoso report concluded UC Davis police and administrators demonstrated poor planning, decision-making and communication of its handling of the occupy protests. It also called the UC Davis police force dysfunctional, with lieutenants that don't listen to their chief and said UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi showed poor leadership throughout.

Student Fatima Sbeih was among the student demonstrators pepper sprayed in the face that Friday afternoon.

"It leaves me with a number of feelings: one, the university was acting on assumption and fear rather than following policy and procedure and the polices they were trying to follow were not acted upon in full," Sbeih said.

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