While the Vanguard welcomed the news that Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court Justice, would head up the UC Davis Task Force that will review the independent investigation led by William Bratton, a retired Police Police Chief with the Los Angeles Police Department, the key to any inquiry will be the ability of that team to have access to crucial information.
However, Mr. Fell told the Vanguard, “Both campus and UC will cooperate fully with them and make available to them any documents they need, subject only to legal restrictions such as those governing student records, personnel files etc.”
The lack of access to personnel files is not a small factor, however, as the investigators may need to examine some of the police personnel files to understand their history.
The Vanguard remains concerned, despite claims that “they are going to get whatever they want,” that when push comes to shove a promise can be revoked, or information hidden under the guise of police personnel files or other confidential matters.
Others have expressed concern over the independence of the investigators, as well as the ability and willingness of the former LA Police Chief to conduct a fair investigation.
A letter from Robert Meister, a Political Science professor at UC Santa Cruz, who heads the Council of UC Faculty Associations, which is an umbrella organization for the Faculty Associations at each UC campus, spells out concern over the independence of Kroll, the company that Mr. Bratton currently works for.
He writes, “We take no position here on Mr. Bratton’s personal qualifications; our objection is to the conflicts of interest of Kroll Security itself, which is already a major contractor with UC on security matters.”
“According to its website, Kroll’s services are not confined to securing databases and facilities from attacks by criminals and terrorists. It also protects many global financial institutions and other multinationals against threats to ‘operations’ that may come from public criticism and direct political action,” Professor Meister continues.
He writes: “By deepening UC’s links to Kroll, you would be illustrating the kinds of connection between public higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting. Kroll’s parent company, Altegrity, provides data-mining, intelligence and on-the-ground security to financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest. In addition, Altegrity’s parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education.”
According to an article in the Huffington Post, “Lynn Tierney, vice-president of communications at UC, said the work Kroll has done in the past consisted of background checks, security around visits from foreign dignitaries and security around faculty singled out for the work they do.”
A Kroll spokesperson noted that there is no conflict of interest and dismissed Professor Meister’s criticism by stating, “[I]t is clear that some of the commentators do not have a complete understanding of the nature and content of the professional advice and counsel that Bill Bratton provides to nations and organizations.”
I think that is exactly the problem – we do not know what kinds of ties Mr. Bratton has and to whom.
“The University is literally hiring the same security company that is protecting the financial service industry,” Professor Meister told the Huffington Post.
The Huffington Post noted, “Other professors were pessimistic about any investigation, after seeing reviews of controversial campus police action before. Catherine Cole, a professor in the theater department of the UC Berkeley campus, said ‘There’s a lot of suspicion about these reports and investigations that don’t lead to anything [despite taking a lot of time].’ “
And that is where we are concerned. President Yudof has made waves by putting two big names in charge of the investigation – a former Police Chief and a Former Supreme Court Justice, who at least also has local ties to the UC Davis campus.
Our own review of the use of force protocols, as well as case law, suggest that the use of pepper spray in this incident to disperse seated protesters with arms interlocked could be deemed excessive force and violation of the Fourth Amendment.
However, the review needs to focus on not only the issue of the use of force, but also who ordered that use of force.
Embattled Chancellor Katehi has twice put the onus on the UC Davis police. For the first riot gear incident, Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro told Reverend Stoneking “The police were not supposed to be in riot gear and the administration was also not happy about their response,” and then she deflected blame from the chancellor noting, “The Chancellor is unavailable due to her triple-booked schedule to move forward her agenda of globalization and internationalization of the university.”
Following the pepper spray incident, Chancellor Katehi first defended the police action, then later she told the Bee that the police had defied her orders in using force against the students.
“We told them very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it. And then we told them we also do not want to have another Berkeley,” she told the Sacramento Bee.
Clearly, for Ms. Katehi’s future, the question in this investigation is (A) whether the use of force was appropriate and (B) whether Ms. Katehi ordered the use of force.
That will be the focus that most take. Already, esteemed faculty are rallying behind Ms. Katehi.
Entomology Professor Walter Leal’s letter, signed by over 206 other professors, backed Chancellor Katehi in the face of strong public and student sentiment that she ought to resign, sentiment bolstered by those such as English Professor Nathan Brown, the English and Physics Departments and the board of the Davis Faculty Association.
On Tuesday Professor Leal wrote: “We strongly believe that Linda Katehi is well-qualified to lead our university through this difficult healing process and oppose the premature calls for her resignation; this is not in the best interest of our university.”
This leads to our belief that Ms. Katehi will survive, barring the clear finding that she ordered the use of force.
To me, while that is an important issue, the bigger issue has been her leadership here. She consistently backtracked and changed her story as the fire grew hotter. It became clear, at least to some, that this was an exercise in cover-up and obfuscation.
The fact that she had the possibility of heading off this crisis but was too busy being triple-booked and promoting the university is telling. If she is truly angling for the Presidency, that hope has been dealt a huge blow.
If she returns after the investigation, she needs to focus on building up the home front and restoring student confidence. The larger problems are not her fault. But how she handled them most certainly is.
The students want nothing less than her resignation, but that seems increasingly unlikely, barring a major finding or smoking gun in the coming weeks. She is on notice, and the next time the police overreact could be the last time.
—David M. Greenwald reporting