Analysis: Cruz Reynoso Takes Control of Investigation and Release of Information

Reynoso-hi-resAccording to a letter from former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, the report from the independent investigation led by former LA Police Chief William Bratton, and his private company Kroll,  will be completed in early January, but the task force will withhold the results from the public and only release them after they have completed their review.

In a letter from Justice Reynoso to President Yudoff, outlining a December 13 meeting, the former justice writes, “We established ground rules, procedures, and a schedule that put us on track to release a report by late January or early February.”

He adds: “Our current thinking is that our final meeting will be held as a public meeting for the purpose of presenting, discussing and taking questions from the public on the recommendations from the Task Force report.”

The former justice views the report by Mr. Bratton and Kroll as part of their process.

He writes, “The Kroll inquiry is not a process independent of the Task Force, but rather is an instrument of the Task Force. Its findings in regard to policies, procedures and use of force will be incorporated into the final Task Force report.”

“Therefore, it is my intention not to release the Kroll findings until the work of the Task Force is complete.”

It is an interesting move by Justice Reynoso, as he takes control of both the process and the message.

He further writes, “We have made clear to Kroll that its charge is to compare facts to best practices in the field, and to gather its information both through interviews and document review of general policies and procedures. Its role is as a neutral fact finder and subject matter expert, and we expect it to collect all possible information and present it to the Task Force in as impartial a manner as possible.”

Justice Reynoso concludes: “I remain confident that we can meet your goals for the Task Force, both in providing you with an objective account of what happened at UC Davis on November 18 as well as in recommending changes that can help ensure that the rights and safety of nonviolent protesters and the entire campus community are protected.”

What Cruz Reynoso is shrewdly doing here is preventing the university or other defenders of the university’s actions from framing the results of the report and shaping public opinion before Justice Reynoso and his task force have a chance to look at it.

Allowing the report from Kroll to come out in early January would have allowed defenders of the chancellor to frame the public discourse before Justice Reynoso would have had a chance to examine the report himself.

Now that he controls the release, he will control the process by having a public meeting in late January or early February, at which point the public will have a chance to weigh in.

It is a shrewd move by the former justice, but also a bit of a gamble.

The gamble is that it further delays the release of the report.  Our concern for some time has been that once the momentum of the November 18 event faded, it would be increasingly difficult to remove the chancellor or make other critical changes.

Already it has been nearly seven weeks since the pepper spraying, global attention has faded, the students have gone home and will only this weekend return to Davis.  Releasing the report this week, positive or negative, could have ignited new energy into the public debate.

So, while it is true that allowing the task force to review and make their report public first allows the task force, rather than other elements, to frame the findings, it also further diminishes whatever momentum had existed for change.

In a phone interview with the Vanguard in December, 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.

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.

One of our concerns at the time was that Mr. Reynoso and his task force will be merely reviewing the report by William Bratton.  As such, the review can only be as good as the investigation.

“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.”

What becomes clear is that the assurance that the former Supreme Court Justice must have gotten is that he got to call the shots and determine how this report will be released.

While Mr. Bratton does not have subpoena power, the university told the Vanguard in December that they intend to give the former chief whatever he wants.

The critical questions remain.

At one level, the question is a simple matter of use of force.  The university’s protocols suggest that the use of pepper spray was unwarranted, given the fact that the students presented no immediate threat to the officers or the public.  In fact, that is how the case law appears to read, as well.

But the bigger question is really who authorized that use of force.  The chancellor has changed her story too many times now – at first she was supportive and defensive, then appalled, then she denied authorizing the use of force.  She also had denied having direct authority over the police. The investigator will have to have access to internal memos and hard drives to see what communications were sent to the UC Davis Police and from whom.

What Justice Reynoso now gets to determine, before others see the report, is whether they have enough information to make a judgment or whether they need to send Kroll back to look for more evidence.

As Justice Reynoso wrote in his letter, “Upon receiving a preliminary report from Kroll in early January, we will review the findings and possibly request supplementary information.”

It is not a perfect process, but it is clear that the right person is in charge of it, and he will do everything in his power to see that the truth comes out.  What happens after that is up to the policy makers.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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  1. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]So, while it is true that allowing the task force to review and make their report public first allows the task force, rather than other elements, to frame the findings, it also further diminishes whatever momentum had existed for change.[/quote]

    I would argue that the “delay” allows for calmer heads to prevail, rather than pour more gasoline on the fire w the premature release of a preliminary report…

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “I hope this report gets completed, unlike the Gutierrez/Navarro debacle.”

    Yeah it’s not like Reynoso didn’t have a life threatening automobile accident or anything.

  3. roger bockrath


    Do you know the status of Cruz Reynoso’s wife after that horrible, life threatening wreck? I can’t remember seeing anything in the Bee regards her recovery. I am impressed that Justice Reynoso felt the need to accommodate Yudof by lending his credibility and skills to this investigative review and report. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Bratton provides all the needed information without the use of subpoena powers.Otherwise this process could get dragged out ad-infinitum.

    Cruz Reynoso strikes me as a man who deeply values justice. I hope the Guiterrez/Navarro investigation has not been killed by Justice Reynoso’s life altering experience. Perhaps those of us who also value justice should be stepping up to see if the Reynoso family ncould use our support.

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