While there was no shortage of opinions on the pepper-spray report that, in the words of Cruz Reynoso on Wednesday afternoon was “finally” released, there was a remarkable lack of comment by local public officials. Whether it was the volume of the material or the nature of that material, it is difficult to say.
UC President Mark Yudof on Wednesday indicated that, like many others, that he had not read the full report.
“My intent now is to give the Task Force report the full and careful reading it deserves, and then, as previously announced, to meet with Chancellor Katehi and discuss her plans going forward for implementing the recommendations,” he said.
He added, “Even a cursory reading of the report confirms what we have known from the start: Friday, Nov. 18 was a bad day for the UC Davis community and for the entire UC system.”
“We can and must do better. I look forward to working with Chancellor Katehi to repair the damage caused by this incident and to move this great campus forward,” he said, suggesting to many that he had no plans to fire the chancellor based on the report that, in the view of many, paints a pretty damning view of her administration.
“The release of the Task Force report represents a significant step in that direction, which is why we fought hard in court to ensure that it would be brought into public light in as full and unfettered a fashion as possible,” the President added. “In closing, I want to reiterate what I stated at the outset of this arduous but necessary process: Free speech, including nonviolent protest, is part of the DNA of this university, and it must be protected with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful fashion, and I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”
But that will be one of the critical questions going forward – how will the university respond to situations where the protesters push beyond those bounds? That is where the system needs to examine its response and figure out how they can do better.
Like President Yudof, Chancellor Linda Katehi thanked the Task Force for their work and indicated, “We will immediately begin to study and assess the report’s recommendations and develop a detailed response and action plan.”
“I intend to have a preliminary draft of our plan to share with the campus community as quickly as possible. There will be numerous ways for you to comment,” she continued. “Let me assure you that in doing so, we will ensure that students’ safety and free-speech rights are paramount.”
The Vanguard has requested a statement from Vice Chancellor John Meyer, who was the direct line supervisor to the police chief implicated in the report, and has for the most part been publicly silent about the incident.
The Davis Police Department provided immediate mutual aid when Lt. Pike called in a frantic plea for help on November 18. The video shows Davis Police Captain Darren Pytel on the scene but not engaging in active assistance during the pepper-spray incident itself.
Chief Landy Black was non-committal back in November about forming a judgment on the incident. The Vanguard understood from several sources, including Cruz Reynoso, that at least as of a month ago, no one from the Davis Police Department spoke to the investigators from Kroll, or other investigators, regarding their view of this incident.
The chief sent a statement to the Vanguard indicating, “We will be reading and digesting it carefully. We will welcome any lessons a municipal police department might learn from what is contained in the report and from the detailed investigation and analysis.”
The City’s Police Ombudsman Robert Aaronson did issue a brief comment to the Vanguard stating, about the reports from both the Task Force and Kroll, “These are documents as remarkable as the videotapes that led to them.”
The Vanguard requested comments from numerous local public officials, including Mayor Joe Krovoza who had made critical statements regarding the incident. The mayor indicated he was working on a statement, however, most of the other emails and text messages have to this point gone unanswered.
This morning, the Mayor has issued a statement, “The Reynoso Report highlights the critical need for careful and clearly crafted protocols for situations such as protests — or any action involving large groups on both the government and citizen side of a situation. In a university community as everywhere, we must learn from the past as we prepare for the future. The Reynoso Report provides just such an opportunity.”
He adds, “I have been very pleased with the City’s handling of protests under the leadership of Chief Black. Yet no institution should ever be above a forward-looking review. Thus, the city will use the report as a catalyst and resource to re-double our efforts ensure we have all needed protocols in place for decision making and police response.”
ACLU Staff Attorney Michael Risher, who is one of several attorneys involved in the lawsuit against the university stemming from this incident, issued a statement.
He wrote, “The long-awaited report on the infamous incident of UC Davis police pepper-spraying non-violent, seated student protesters has been released. It concludes what we all know from watching the shocking videos: ‘The pepperspraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented.’ That’s the opening to the report, which outlines the various ways that Chancellor Katehi, other Administration officials, and the UC Davis Police Department completely mismanaged the situation at every level.”
Mr. Risher noted several of the critical findings and then said, “Taken as a whole, the report also makes clear that – the University acted based on fear and assumptions about the Occupy movement, not on evidence or the law. The University’s response to the demonstration reflects a fundamental lack of respect for the right to protest.”
He added: “While we are pleased with the light that the University has shed on this matter through this report, it left some key stones unturned (for example, the role of the UC Office of the President in protecting – or failing to protect — the rights of non-violent protesters).”
Mr. Risher concludes, “The ACLU of Northern California is representing students and alumni in a lawsuit against UC Davis and individual police officers, over a series of constitutional violations against the demonstrators on November 18, and we hope to obtain more answers over the course of this litigation.”
A number of legislators made comments about the pepper-spray report. Notably absent from those comments were comments either by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada or Senator Lois Wolk, who both represent UC Davis in the legislature.
The Vanguard reached Assemblymember Yamada late on Wednesday night and she indicated that she had yet to read the report in its entirety, and reminded the Vanguard that she had issued a statement back in November condemning the incident.
At that time she said, “The disturbing pepper-spraying of non-violent UC Davis students is now under independent investigation. As fact-finding proceeds, I commend the students and the greater campus community for coming together and advancing the discourse peacefully.”
She added, “All of us are angry about the public disinvestments in higher education; children and seniors, healthcare, housing, transportation and public safety have also been hard hit. With ‘trigger cuts’ looming, this discussion is far from over. How we join forces to refocus our spending priorities is our biggest challenge ahead.”
Senator Leland Yee and frequent and fierce critic of UC and defender of free speech, issued a statement saying: “I am very pleased with the thoroughness of the task force report. As the report indicates, the pepper spray incident was a massive failure by the UC Davis administration and police force.”
He added, “This report allows President Yudof to hold his campus leadership accountable. It also lays the blue print for effectively handling such situations in the future and helps ensure such an incident never happens again. I commend the task force for recognizing the scope of this problem and respecting the free speech rights of students.”
Speaker John Perez said Wednesday, “Today’s report on the November 18 pepper spray incident at UC Davis clearly shows the systemic and administrative problems that led up to an outrageous and excessive use of force against peaceful student demonstrators. The report demonstrates that UC Davis officials are responsible for allowing the incident to occur, both in failing to provide clear guidance to the campus police, and in their oversight of the police themselves, as evidenced by the fact that the officers were neither authorized, nor trained, in the use of the specific type of pepper spray used on the students.”
He added, “Officials at UC Davis must be held accountable in addressing the very troubling revelations that this report has brought to light, and I will work with my colleagues on the Board of Regents and in the Legislature to ensure that they are held accountable in that work.”
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom added: “This is a very serious issue and I appreciate the task force’s candor in its conclusion, ‘Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying incident…should and could have been prevented.’ “
He added, “The task force made numerous recommendations that I am sure the UC Regents will be discussing at our next meeting in May. And while the report was clear there were individuals and procedures that directly and indirectly led to this unacceptable incident, the task force was not asked to make recommendations for disciplinary action.”
His statement concludes, “While there is a concurrent internal affairs investigation ongoing into the conduct of the police, the findings in this report make it clear that immediate and demonstrative action must be taken by the Chancellor and UC President to restore the public trust in UC Davis and the UC system.”
A Bee editorial this morning lays the debacle at the feet of Chancellor Linda Katehi.
They write that the report “provides a devastating indictment of the leadership of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and key vice chancellors – and of the operations of the campus Police Department.”
“In our reading, Katehi showed either extreme naiveté or incompetence in weighing a response to protesters camping in the Quad,” they add, noting there was “a deeply flawed structure for decisionmaking” with “little or no consideration of alternatives,” and a failure “to record and adequately communicate key decisions, so that ambiguity and uncertainty ruled.”
The editorial adds that the campus had fair warning with what had occurred one week earlier in Berkeley, however, “instead of deliberate preparations, those events, according to the report, sparked alarmist fears among Katehi and other administrators that if any encampment was not removed immediately, older non-students might assault young female students.”
Chancellor Katehi, they write, said she was worried about “the use of drugs and sex and other things, and you know here we have very young students … we were worried especially about having very young girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without any knowledge of their record … .”
The chancellor did make one thing clear, the paper writes, “She wanted the tents removed at 3 p.m. – though it was never certain what legal authority police had to remove tents during the day in order to implement a policy against overnight camping.”
The Reynoso report, they write, highlights the conclusion of the investigation done by Kroll: “While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on Nov. 18 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day.”
They conclude: “The Reynoso report leaves no doubt that responsibility for the Nov. 18 incident rests with the administration, starting with Katehi. Now the reckoning begins.”
The Vanguard will have full coverage of Cruz Reynoso’s afternoon event from Wednesday and a number of other articles in the coming hours.
—David M. Greenwald reporting