In a strong signal that this incident will not simply be swept under the rug, UC President Mark Yudof announced today that former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso will chair the task force formed to address the pepper spraying of UC Davis students.
According to the President’s press release, “The task force is part of UC’s efforts to address policing issues in the wake of the Nov. 18 pepper spraying of UC Davis students and other incidents involving law enforcement officers and protesters.”
In a phone interview with the Vanguard, Justice Reynoso told the Vanguard that he would be reviewing the report expected to be released within 30 days by former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton.
“The task will not be to investigate, the task will be to review the report that will be made and to give our own reactions,” the former Justice told the Vanguard.
Last week, President Yudof announced that Chief Bratton would lead an independent fact-finding of the pepper spray incident, and report back the results to him within 30 days.
According to the release, Chief Bratton’s report also will be presented to the task force that Yudof is forming, at Chancellor Katehi’s request. The task force will consist of a cross-section of students, faculty, staff and other UC community members.
Justice Reynoso is the first member named to the task force. The task force will review the report and make recommendations to Ms. Katehi on steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters on campus. She will present her implementation plan to Yudof.
“It will be a representative group of mostly UC Davis folk,” he said, “including students, professors and staff.”
This is seen as a signal that the President, who reiterated his support for protecting the right to peaceful protests on campus, intends this to be a fair and independent process.
“The ultimate goal that he has, obviously, is to have the reaction of the university community including the students, to review the report, and we’re free to make any and all observations,” he said.
Cruz Reynoso was approached by an assistant to the President to inform him that the President was going to ask him to chair this committee.
“I confess that I expressed reluctance,” he told the Vanguard, “But when he [President Yudof] called he persuaded me it was the right thing to do.”
The Vanguard spoke with Eric Lee, one of the student protesters who did not know much about Cruz Reynoso, but was strongly opposed to William Bratton being named to head up the investigation.
“The fact that Bill Bratton is on that committee is terrifying,” he told the Vanguard. “This is a man who led militarized police on working class neighborhoods in Los Angeles to round up indigent people under the assumption that they would be committing criminal acts.”
“He is the father of one of the most classist political theories… the broken windows theory,” he said. “If this guy is on the task force, I frankly don’t care who else is.”
He added, “More importantly it doesn’t matter who is on the task force, because the task force itself is a joke. We don’t want a task force – we want Chancellor Katehi to resign. Anything less than that is not anything that we’re interested in being a part of.”
Yolo County ACLU Chair Natalie Wormeli was strongly supportive of the move.
“Any Californian should know from Cruz’s years on the bench as well as his work on different non-profits that he’s a very fair and thorough worker and he will bring his experience and his brain and his heart in a way that no one else can,” she said.
“I’m confident that he’ll do what everybody needs at this point, which is a fair analysis and provide some excellent recommendations as to [how] we can all move forward,” Ms. Wormeli added.
According to the release from the University of California Office of the President, Justice Reynoso, a farmworker’s son, rose from an Orange County barrio to become the first Latino to serve on the California Supreme Court.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and a law degree from UC Berkeley. His distinguished career includes serving as director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, as a UCLA law school professor and as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
He joined the UC Davis law school faculty in 2001 as the inaugural holder of its Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality.
Last Tuesday, in a separate effort, President Yudof also appointed UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to lead a systemwide examination of police protocols and policies as they apply to protests at all 10 UC campuses. The review is expected to result in recommended best practices for policing protests across the 10 UC campuses.
—David M. Greenwald reporting