Damage Control

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Chancellor’s Hasty Retreat Covers Up Major Errors and Oversights That Directly Caused Fiasco

In the immediate wake of the pepper spraying, the initial response from the leadership at UC Davis was actually to defend the actions of the police.

“We have a responsibility to maintain a secure place for our students to learn, and for our faculty and staff to provide the excellent education we are known for,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said immediately.

“The students had encircled the officers,” UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said on Saturday. “They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”

Chancellor Katehi immediately issued a statement that seemed to defend the actions of the police, “Following our requests, several of the group chose to dismantle their tents this afternoon and we are grateful for their actions.  However a number of protestors refused our warning, offering us no option but to ask the police to assist in their removal.”

“We are saddened to report that during this activity, 10 protestors were arrested and pepper spray was used,” she said.  “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal,” the chancellor added.

“We appreciate and strongly defend the rights of all our students, faculty and staff to robust and respectful dialogue as a fundamental tenet of our great academic institution.  At the same time, we have a responsibility to our entire campus community, including the parents who have entrusted their students to us, to ensure that all can live, learn and work in a safe and secure environment,” she added.

As it became clear that the public’s response was one of outrage, that tone changed.  On Sunday, the university rather belatedly announced that they were putting the two police officers who used pepper spray on the protesters on administrative leave.

On Sunday, Chancellor Katehi issued another statement: “I have also heard from an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff and alumni from around the country. I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident.”

She added, “I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again. I feel very sorry for the harm our students were subjected to and I vow to work tirelessly to make the campus a more welcoming and safe place.”

Still later she added, “Friday was not a day that would make anyone on our campus proud.”

UC President Mark Yudof said he was “appalled” by what happened, both at UC Davis as well as UC Berkeley, where police were hitting demonstrators with batons.

“I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses,” he said in a statement.  “I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.”

While he vowed not to micromanage either the police or chancellors, however, he said, “”I intend to convene all 10 chancellors, either in person or by telephone, to engage in a full and unfettered discussion about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.”

“To that end, I will be asking the chancellors to forward to me at once all relevant protocols and policies already in place on their individual campuses, as well as those that apply to the engagement of non-campus police agencies through mutual aid agreements,” President Yudof announced.  “Further, I already have taken steps to assemble experts and stakeholders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes.”

The Vanguard learned that Lt. John Pike, the officer seen pepper spraying the protesters, is actually the head of the UC Davis Professional and Standards Unit, meaning that it is his job to evaluate and review the conduct of other officers in the course of citizen and administrative complaints.

It also appears that the use of force violates the University of California’s university-wide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures, which state: “Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”

On Saturday, Chancellor Linda Katehi was videoed silently moving through a mass of students.  Now she has accepted an invitation to take part in the rally set for midday on Monday.

“My hope is that I’m going to be engaged with students in a dialogue so that we remain safe and we remain calm, as a campus,” Chancellor Katehi said in an interview Sunday with student-run Aggie TV. “We cannot be a place of learning when there’s no safety for the community, when there’s no calm. I will appeal personally to the students for that.”

Despite the comments from Chancellor Katehi, it becomes clear that her initial response was actually to defend the actions of the police and the campus administration.  It was only once it became clear that the public was decidedly and loudly appalled by the actions that she changed her tune.

One problem that the chancellor, as well as Chief Spicuzza, face is that these decisions do not appear to have happened on the ground.

Instead, you have a lieutenant, John Pike, carrying out the actions.  A man with a very troubled history, from what we have learned, with numerous external and internal complaints against him.  What makes this all the worse is that he is the police officer who is charged with reviewing the conduct of others.

As we now know from Reverend Stoneking’s letter, the police had already had a major miscommunication and foul up at Mrak Hall, as police officers had arrived in riot gear for a peaceful demonstration.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro gave the reverend a load of, at best, half-baked excuses.

She told the reverend, “The police were not supposed to be in riot gear and the administration was also not happy about their response,” but she also defended the administration, calling them “overworked” and saying that they were “doing the best they can.”

Perhaps worse yet, the reverend was also told, “The Chancellor is unavailable due to her triple-booked schedule to move forward her agenda of globalization and internationalization of the university.”

This is, in fact, the growing criticism of the chancellor, that she is rarely at the university and rarely available to act as the chief administrator.  The word is that she is out on the road attempting to make a name for herself and set herself up as the successor to President Yudof when he retires down the road.

What this incident seems to suggest is that no one took control of the police, and without leadership, the police overreacted to a fundamentally non-threatening situation.

Many have called for the chancellor to resign over this. She has sidestepped that issue for now, but it is fairly clear that heads have to roll.

As most familiar with the situation on the ground at the university seem to acknowledge, the university, especially in times with huge fee hikes, is going to have protests.  In the past, they have allowed the protesters to have their say, allowing them to camp out on the steps of Mrak Hall in the 1980s, for example.

And yet we have been covering events at UC Davis for almost five years now, and most of the time, they have fouled up these situations.  But this is the worst.  You have activists who are a threat to no one, you have flimsy excuses that are directly rebutted by the video, such as encirclement of the officers, while most people who watch the videos see that the officers moved through the crowd unencumbered.

Civil Rights Attorney Stewart Katz, who specializes in police misconduct and excessive force cases, called the actions simply “stupid, unnecessary, and mean-spirited.”

“There just wasn’t any need for them to do this,” he told the Vanguard on Saturday, “They are students anyway, they have finals coming up.  How long are they really going to stay anyway?”

Yolo County ACLU Chair Natalie Wormeli said that the local chapter “is quite concerned by what appears to be excessive force used on the students who were exercising their First Amendment rights and were peaceably assembled.”

“As the footage shows, the campus police, dressed in their dramatic helmets, which are designed to protect them from their noxious chemicals and any other non-lethal weaponry they were prepared to use, set the stage for a nonpeaceful ending to a student protest,” she added.

Former Councilmember Lamar Heystek made it a point to question whether the City of Davis should even be involved in a support capacity.  Other locales have refused mutual aid for, specifically, the Occupy movement.

“Despite this secondary role, our City peace officers were seen by millions around the world participating in the suppression of students who, while passively resisting, were actively engaged in exercising their constitutional freedoms to speak out,” Mr. Heystek wrote.

“Secondary or not, it is our obligation as a freedom-loving community to clearly and formally articulate our values so that there be no misunderstanding,” he said.  “Our City’s law enforcement resources must not be deployed in cooperation – however ancillary – at the request of another agency that is engaging in morally questionable police tactics.”

He called on the City of Davis to “seriously reexamine” their role in mutual-aid agreements in such cases.

The Sacramento Bee joined the chorus, calling that “UC must make amends for use of excessive force,” and writing, “Courts have made clear that public authorities can limit the time and place of protests. The First Amendment is not a license to say or do anything at any time. Yet that doesn’t give authorities the latitude to use any type of method to enforce ‘time-and-place’ protest restrictions.”

They add, “Using pepper spray on young people who are using passive resistance is appalling, the term UC President Mark Yudof used Sunday in calling for a review of campus police actions. He should look hard at claims by UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza that officers had no choice but to use pepper spray to avoid being cut off  ‘from their support.’ “

The problem, as we have noted, is that the protests would have died on their own had the police not intervened.  Now they have made it worse.  As the Bee notes, “It appeared the UC Davis protests were dying down before the police overreacted Friday, and it didn’t help that Chancellor Linda Katehi initially came to their [the officers’] defense. Now protesters are vowing to show up in even greater numbers today.”

Even a Davis Enterprise editorial called the pepper spraying an “overreaction.”

“We add our voice to the growing chorus of members of the Davis and UC Davis communities who are deeply concerned about the pepper-spraying of protesters Friday on the university quad,” they wrote Sunday morning.

Those who somehow still believe that the police acted appropriately need to look at the public reaction and understand that, while on Friday there might have been a hundred people on the Quad, on Monday there will be thousands and they will be angry.

Occupy Sacramento sent out a press release on Sunday night calling on a caravan of Occupiers to support “brutalized UC Davis students.”

“We feel it is a necessity to support and assist our friends at UC Davis in their time of need. This kind of brutality as seen by the citizen videos circulating the world needs to stop. When someone next asks ‘why’ is there an Occupy, we only need to point to this example of the 1 percent ordering their public servants to punish – without trial – peaceful, non-violent demonstrators.

“The Occupy movement will not stand for it,” said Cres Vellucci, an ACLU board member in Sacramento, and Legal Team coordinator for Occupy Sacramento.

An Occupy lawyer, meanwhile, called on Gov. Brown, AG Harris, federal and county law enforcement to arrest officers responsible for pepper spraying UC Davis students.

The officers involved in the pepper-spray attacks on UC Davis students Friday should be immediately arrested because they’ve violated federal and state laws, said one of the lawyers from Occupy Sacramento in a letter to Gov. Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and other law enforcement officials.

“Physical attacks on persons violate California Penal Code 242 (Battery) and such violence perpetrated by those in uniform is a criminal violation of Federal civil rights law 18 USC 242,” said Jeff Kravitz, a constitutional rights attorney.

Mr. Kravitz suggested the state, through AG Harris, as well as Yolo District Attorney Jeff Reisig and US Attorney Benjamin Wagner, should make the arrests of the UC Davis officers immediately.

“It is imperative that proper action be taken by County, State and Federal authorities… initiating criminal proceedings including the arrest of those who committed the acts of violence. or bringing the issues before a grand jury. Leaving he matter solely in the hands of the University is not a reasonable option,” said Mr. Kravitz.

He  added that the University of California’s promised investigation is “clearly self-serving and bears resemblance to the investigation conducted by Penn State into the allegations of sex crimes by Jerry Sandusky…an investigation used to protect the university and not the victims.”

At the same time, organizers have called for calm.

An email from organizers of the Whole Earth Festival said, “The non-violent response to Friday’s ‘shame on you’ pepper-spraying and the chillingly-silent, non-violent Walk of Shame following students gathering around Katehi’s press-conference location are responses of which we can be proud.”

“Non-violence is powerful; non-violence is the power that will lead to change.  Change in UCD administration; change in how police respond to peaceful acts of civil disobedience —- nationwide,” the message said.

In the end, everyone but a tiny minority realize how big an error this was.  Now the task comes to hold those responsible accountable and that task will begin on Monday as demonstrators flock in support of the right to dissent, and Chancellor Katehi campaigns to keep her job.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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42 Comments

  1. Mr.Toad

    Katehi takes full responsibility, what does that mean? You often hear people in positions of authority say this but what are the consequences? What should her punishment be? I’m sure we will be waiting for that shoe to drop.

    The silent students and perp walk of Katehi is the most powerful non violent protest I have ever seen.

    Its Monday, when will other elected officials weigh in?

  2. DonCarlos

    Will someone who, unlike me, is not employed by UCD please put in a FOI request to obtain the following info:

    1. How many people are employed at the UCD Police department? How many are officers, and at what ranks?

    2. What is the annual cost of the UCDPD? and how much are individuals paid?

    3. How many vehicles does the UCDPD have? And how many bikes? (You almost NEVER see UCD police on bikes!!! Even on campus. In fact, you only see them cruising down campus avenues in their semi-armored cars which they leave switched on all the time).

    4. Who is the campus person response for oversight of UCD PD?

    5. How many law suits were brought against the PD, and at what cost (to defend and/or settle)?

    6. How many complains were lodged against officers, and for what reasons?

    7. Why do officers patrol campus carrying fire arms? When was a fire arm last used on duty?

    Tha above are just a sample of questions that need to be asked of UCD leadership who have allowed the PD to grow into a self-governing para-military organization that is effectively out of control. I guess adminstrators play it safe when it comes to the campus police: no Chancelor gets fired for employing too many and arming them to the teeth. After all, they guarantee ‘public safety’, don’t they? (more like: ‘they pepper spray peaceful protestors, don’t they?’

  3. David M. Greenwald

    I would have to find my files, but I actually have looked into a lot of these.

    My data are a few years old, but it looks like about 20 officers, officers seem to make around 60 to 70 K, Sgts around 80 to 90, Lt. Pike made over 105K, Captains around $125, Chief around $148.

    Don’t know the answer to 3.

    The Chief directly answers to John Meyer

    I know of four lawsuits specifically that includes internal lawsuits and external ones.

    The answer to six is not generally publicly available, however, I did receive a listing that was heavily redacting in 2007 and 2008 that showed 14 complaints, many were internal. Of which four were sustained and three resulted in the termination. I don’t have data since.

    The answer to seven is that they are sworn police officers. Do not know when it was last used.

  4. anonymous

    How many UCD students do UCD police officers personally know by name? That’s the difference between just clocking in and true professionalism. But that goes for all UCD employees.

  5. hpierce

    DonCarlos should know that he/she is perfectly entitled to do a PRA/FOIA request on their own…. if there is retaliation for that, he/she could retire early on the settlement for being a “whistle-blower”…

  6. 91 Octane

    I think some common sense needs to be used here. There are two seperate issues at hand:

    1. Reaction of Police to protests.
    2. the protests themselves.

    what bothers me is based on reactions from various sectors, they seem to want to use one to justify the other.

    I will say this: I think a more effective approach to the situation would have been for the police to remove the protestors and put them in the paddy wagon but make sure these people do not merely spend a night in jail, make them spend a week – then make them do community service – starting with cleaning up the roach infested messes occupy leaves behind.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Nevermind that leaving them in jail for a week would have been illegal not to mention we don’t have the space to hold people with misdos for that long.

  8. DonCarlos

    David: Thank you for filling in some details. Do you also know the figure for the total annual cost of the Police Department? In my Department, we just fired a number of Staff (at an average cost of $30k) due to budget constraints and am just wondering about the scale of the PD’s costs and whether they have been immune to the cuts.

    hpierce: Thanks. I know I’m entitled to file a request on my own but retaliation can occur in a form that would be difficult to prove in a court of law. Anyway, “whistle-blower” is when one exposes a criminal or illegal activity but this is not the case with the UCD PD. It’s more the case that lack of campus oversight has resulted in an out of control outgrowth of police apparatus. If David is right, and the number of officers is around 20, then that’s 1 police officer per 1000 student – that is WAY too much for a UC campus in a place such as Davis.

  9. Eric Gelber

    [quote]I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident.[/quote]

    How disingenuous. Does this mean the police on the scene and their superiors have no responsibility? If this statement is true, why is Katehi not among those on administrative leave pending further investigation?

  10. Frankly

    Accounding to what Katehi said in her interview with UCD TV, a number of the would be campers/protestors were not UCD students and were from out of the area.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the people pepper-sprayed were from out of the area and we all knew this. Seems that all this manufactured moral outrage would be much more muted.

  11. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I will say this: I think a more effective approach to the situation would have been for the police to remove the protestors and put them in the paddy wagon but make sure these people do not merely spend a night in jail, make them spend a week – then make them do community service – starting with cleaning up the roach infested messes occupy leaves behind.[/quote]

    91 Octane makes a very valid point here. While the method used in this case was over the top, protesters in general are not made to suffer much for their destruction of property and other damage they do. If they were arrested, then tried and punished appropriately for the damage they caused, then forced to clean it up, I suspect many would not be protesting anymore. I’m thinking particularly of the OWS protesters that pitched tents in parks for a length of time, and the cities had to go in and clean up the rat/roach infested mess, not to mention the burned debris used to attempt to destroy a building by fire in Oakland…

    The problem here at UCD is the Chancellor did not want to allow students to start camping on the quad, which was probably reasonable. But the method used to extract the students from illegally camping was probably an extreme over-reaction…

  12. biddlin

    “91 Octane makes a very valid point here. While the method used in this case was over the top, protesters in general are not made to suffer much for their destruction of property and other damage they do. “
    I didn’t know y’all played by Holy See rules over in Yolo . How much suffering is appropriate ? Should they do the clean-up in leg irons ?

  13. Frankly

    My guess is that the police warned the law breakers that they would be sprayed with pepper spray if they did not leave. Police are generally pretty good giving warnings and giving perps ample opportunities to cooperate. Cop-haters might disagree, but the average cop wants the event to go smoothly without incident. Cops have children and relatives the same age as the students, and there is no glee in having to douse them with pepper spray. The “glee” is all with those looking for some action by the cops to use in their propaganda campaign. I assume this group of law breakers had prepared to be sprayed, and welcomed it as a way to get media attention and drum up sympathy for their cause. With this, how many of you are being played?

  14. Briankenyon

    Jeff Boone,
    Your cynicism is breathtaking…and baseless. “My guess is…”? “Police are generally pretty good giving warnings and giving perps ample opportunities to cooperate.” These comments are nothing but tissues of imaginative rhetoric hamstrung by the fact that you include no facts specific to the pepper-spraying that occurred on the UC Davis Quad on Friday. And not only that, you seem to tout yourself as a mindreader “I assume this group of lawbreakers…welcomed [getting pepper-sprayed] as a way to get media attention.” Did you speak to any of the students who got pepper-sprayed? If you did, my apologies for the previous “mindreader” comment, but, if you can’t contribute intelligently to the discussion here, please keep your baseless opinions to yourself.

  15. Frankly

    Brainkeyon:

    I think your short might be on too tight and squeezing your objectivity. You can leave room for opinion on blogs. In fact, that is what blogs are all about. No need to have to back up every point with some academic study. These are my opinions. I know police protocol. I know cops. You might find this surprising, but cops are people too. They feel pretty much the same as other people… the difference is that they have a much more difficult job than most other people.

    You are correct that I do not know what was on the mind of the students. But they certainly must of talked about the risk of police actions against them for their illegal protest. I expect they knew they would be dealt with similarly to other occupy events. If their goal is to get media attention, then pushing the cops to use some type of force would be a know tactic to that end.

  16. rusty49

    Jeff, I say your assumptions are dead on. There have been many opinions on here on what the police were thinking, on what administrators involvement was or should be, on the actual conceived threat to police at the time……I didn’t see where anyone complained and told them to keep their opinions to themselves.

  17. biddlin

    rusty49-Since we know you’re here, a chance to dodge the question a third time.

    “Medwoman, would you feel that way if you had an encampment of urinating and defecating protesters living in front of your medical offices causing you to lose much of your business? “

    So is it OK with you if Planned Parenthood’s security guards pepper spray the demonstrators blocking their door with 24″X32″ photos of aborted fetuses and harassing their patients ?

  18. AdRemmer

    a asked: [quote]How many UCD students do UCD police officers personally know by name[/quote]

    Accordingly: How many UCD police officers do UCD students personally know by name?

  19. AdRemmer

    BK posted: [quote]These comments are nothing but tissues of imaginative rhetoric hamstrung by the fact that you include no facts[/quote]

    Didn’t you get the memo from SM? Posters are not mandated to substantiate claims if they don’t feel like it.

  20. davisite2

    Chancellor Katehi’s vision, as she presented it in her major agenda speech, is for UCD to focus on bringing out-of-state people to UCD in order to reap the more lucrative income than can be gotten from California residents. According to a recent NPR piece, China’s rapidly growing affluent middle-class is willing to pay the $6-8,000 as the asking price by admission mills now proliferating in China that guarantee an admission to a US University; fraudulant recommendation letters and transcripts as well as ghost writers for the required essays are included in the price.

  21. Frankly

    The US is in economic war with China.

    California is in economic war with itself.

    So, Katehi’s vision is to aid and abet the enemy for her own personal benefit of satiating her desire that UCD continues to build more ego shrines. Gosh I am naïve thinking that a UC chancellor’s primary focus running a state-funded university should be to provide the best and most accessible education to residents of the state so that we can better compete economically.

  22. biddlin

    Jeff Boone-“So, Katehi’s vision is to aid and abet the enemy for her own personal benefit of satiating her desire that UCD continues to build more ego shrines. Gosh I am naïve thinking that a UC chancellor’s primary focus running a state-funded university should be to provide the best and most accessible education to residents of the state so that we can better compete economically.” We’ve all been naive, though I think the compensation and trappings of office would have given a clue to anyone watching closely . I fear we have put administrators on much too high a pedestal .

  23. anonymous

    Adremmer: “Accordingly: How many UCD police officers do UCD students personally know by name?”

    Right now almost all UCD students know Lt. John Pike and Chief Annette Spicuzza.

    The police are the salaried professionals, not the students. So I argue that it is professional police responsibility to initiate social relationships in this regard.

    There are colleges/universities where the campus police go around and make visits to student groups, introduce themselves, talk about some basics of campus safety, take questions, sometimes stick around a little to chat with students. I wonder if the UCD police have done this kind of activity, and if most of their police officers are involved in such a program if it does exist.

  24. SODA

    I heard the Chancellor interviewed on KQED Forum and then went to the quad assembly at noon where she spoke. The interview was less than illuminating. She stated she was not at the protest because she doesn’t ‘go to rally’s. Her short speech at the noon assembly was even less impressive. She said nothing really, took no accountability and said she wanted to meet with students. Very unimpressive in my opinion. Was anyone else there?

  25. civil discourse

    Watch the Aggie TV interview with Katehi from Sunday. Despite all of this, she still says “technically, the police followed protocol” but that protocol probably shouldn’t have been followed this time.

    It seems to me that protocol might not have been followed at all, at least according to the policing policies I’ve seen posted here and elsewhere.

    Someone should probably hold her to her word on this.

  26. Moravecglobal1

    Apologies and excuses from UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are not accepted.
    Campus UCPD report to chancellors and take direction from their chancellor. University of California campus chancellors vet their campus police protocols. Chancellors knowledgeable that pepper spray and use of batons included in their campus police protocols.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor are in dereliction
    of their duties.

    UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and UC Davis Chancellor need to quit or be
    fired for permitting the brutal outrages on students protesting tuition increases
    and student debt

    Opinions? Email the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

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