Reaction to Report: Lack of Public Comment By Local Public Officials

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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

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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18 Comments

  1. Neutral

    From the report: [i]An Occupy encampment in Central Park in the City of Davis was started on Oct. 15, 2011. [b]City officials took no steps to take down the protesters’ tents[/b].[/i]

    The City’s action speaks for itself.

  2. Edgar Wai

    The photo that is associated with this article is not current. The caption should indicate that “Monday” is not in April 2012, but in November 2011. The lack of this clarification is misleading.

    I am only on Page 132/190 of the PDF. So far the Reynoso portion of the PDF (30 pages or so) is too short to depict the actual perspectives of the people involved. So far on these 132 pages, the Knoll report painted a picture that is quite human, with no one making a decision based on ill-intention. Note that at this point, the rhetoric against the Chancellor is no longer:

    The Chancellor tries to suppress student speech systematically.

    But:

    The Chancellor was incompetent in handling the protest.

    To me this is a step forward to at least acknowledge that events unfolded not because the Admin had any ill-intention. So far in these 132 pages, Pike himself had at least tried two times to avoid the situation: 1) by voicing that the eviction should not happen at 3pm; and 2) by voicing that Student Affairs should effect the eviction instead. Any ill-intention is so far absent (up to page 132). I will keep reading the report and I believe other readers should also read the Knoll portion in its entirety.

    On the topic on whether the decision to remove tents at 3pm was legal, the Knoll portion of the report included the reasoning that by Nov18 (Friday), the protesters had already camped on the Quad overnight. Another reasoning included was that non-affiliates cannot camp there day or night.

    Could someone explain whether it is only legal to remove the tents when it was at night, given that the eviction did not occur on Nov17 before the night, but on Nov18 after the camping had already occurred.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    I carefully read the entire report and also watched the briefing by Cruz Reynoso and his team. At the briefing a student wanted to know if the team looked into how the students who were arrested were treated on that day. Per the report, students were unwilling to participate in the Kroll investigation, so these issues were never brought up nor addressed in the report. I wonder if there is a sense of regret over this now that the report has been released and appears to be fairly balanced. Cruz Reynoso responded that he knew that there was a lawsuit pending, but I wonder what other investigations are still being done that these students could participate in and have this element of what happened that day addressed.

    Students also claimed at the briefing that UCD Administration was continuing to punish the students by pressing charges. I think that the DA has filed charges for the blocking of US Bank, which is viewed by the Administration as a separate issue. However, it seems for these students that the US Bank protest is just an extension of the protests starting 2 years ago. The Administration views each incident as separate and clearly does not see the protests as a continuation. Both sides are not reaching each other.

  4. newshoundpm

    When people criticize the scope of the Reynoso report as not being broad enough by not making recommendations for punishment, I think they do not realize that such an enlarged scope would be inappropriate for quite a number of reasons. First of all, it would take a far greater amount of time. Second, the task force would have had to have been given some authority to compel testimony from all of the participants and to issue meaningful sanctions for lack of cooperation. Third, does anyone truly believe that the legal process is best conducted by such a task force? Remember, that while most seem to believe that the task force has done a good, fair and unbiased job in preparing the report, this task force was commissioned by the UC President, not an independent body. Had the findings and recommendations been different, I’m sure that there would have been many claims of bias. There are other systems in place that should more appropriately determine in more precise and individual detail, who was responsible and what punishments should be meted out. While slower, those processes need to run their courses in fairness to all involved. Our overall legal system doesn’t work any faster, and frankly, despite all of the public uproar, nobody was killed or physically injured in any permanent manner as far as I’ve heard. Fourth, had this task force been tasked with the immeasurably larger task of recommending punishment of individuals involved, I believe that the findings in the task force would have been hindered by much more resistance to provide interviews and testimony. Many of the police and all of the protestors chose to either not be identified or not to be interviewed at all. It seems like the only willing participants in the process were members of the UC Davis administration. I believe I understand why both the protestors and many of the police did not want to be interviewed as a part of this process. As an individual, I wouldn’t want to either. Many judgements are being made by the public without the benefit of sufficient information. Individuals are being judged in the court of public opinion without a full enough set of facts because they demand answers and action immediately. Despite the inconvenience of the delays, I still think that justice is better served by this process than the processes found far back in our history or in countries ruled by dictators, but that’s just me. On the whole, I think that the Reynoso task force and all of its individual members appear to have done an outstanding job. The fact that the report’s findings and recommendations were unanimously supported by the entire task force is quite telling, particularly given the diversity of the potential interests that the members might have been assumed to represent. This fact also tells me that the recommendations and the findings will be taken seriously by UC Davis and the entire UC system and that meaningful and significant changes in policies and practicies will be made. And frankly, given the amount of public visibility on this matter, I don’t really worry that this will not be the case.

  5. highbeam

    Edgar, sorry about the confusion – there is something about this site that doesn’t allow a change to the caption of a previously-posted photo. I do not pretend to understand why that is, but I know that David can explain.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]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.[/quote]

    Give people a chance to read the report, digest it, think about it, and then comment if they so choose…

  7. David M. Greenwald

    All they have to do is respond that they are still reading and digesting it. We’ll see. I was glad that Mayor Krovoza commented. I was disappointed no public officials were at Freeborn however.

  8. Anne

    Thank you for being on top of this story and reporting on it. It seems that the Vanguard is once again THE source for information in Davis and Yolo. Thanks David.

  9. Mr.Toad

    Why should Katehi be taken at her word that she didn’t want force to be used? I understand that she didn’t make her concern clear to the police but that could also be because she wasn’t concerned about the need for force. Her first emails after the spraying condoned the actions of the police by not condemning them. Her failure of leadership could have been an attempt to avoid responsibility. Reynoso used the information he was provided that doesn’t mean he was given a story devoid of spin.

    I find it curious that all the people who said to wait for the investigation are now silent or are trying to nit pick it to put the best face on what happened. For the administration it seems it is worse than many had suspected. The question of Katehi’s tenure seems to be back on the table with the balance to be weighed between her horrible authoritarian failure of leadership and her ability to raise massive amounts of money for the university. Whether she survives remains the billion dollar question.

  10. Ryan Kelly

    The briefing was streamed live on that day via UC Davis’ website. Most people I knew watched the entire briefing from their computers, so don’t think that people are uninterested.
    So, don’t be discouraged by the low attendance for an event scheduled on a weekday in the middle of the afternoon.

  11. newshoundpm

    Mr. Toad:

    It is a fair point that neither Katehi nor any of those accused of wrong-doing should be taken at their word. However, everyone seems to agree that she indicated she didn’t want another Berkeley situation, which would seem to indicate she was concerned about the need for force and didn’t want that to occur. She definitely could and should have been more clear from what the Reynoso report found.

    While you criticize her condoning of the police actions in her initial emails, I believe she was trying to respond to requests for comments from the press regarding the incident, and unfortunately was provided bad information regarding what had occurred from possibly one of the few people from her leadership team that was actually there and should have had a good understanding of police actions. This information came from Chief Spicuzza and Katehi appears to have assumed it to be true. That’s one of the problem with these “demands” for immediate comments on news events. Initial information is not always completely accurate and you often don’t have multiple sources with which to try to verify facts immediately. We now see that she was provided with bad information from Chief Spicuzza in terms of the composition of protestors at Mrak Hall and the necessity for the use of pepper spray that afternoon. While it is not clear how evident it would have been to have questioned Spicuzza’s account of Nov. 18th at that time, I am frankly troubled by how she may have resolved conflicting accounts regarding the composition of the protestors at Mrak Hall, seeming to discount Castro’s personal observations and accepting the likelihood of a composition that included at least some non-affiliates.

    Katehi’s comments following the incident should have been that she was saddened and disturbed by what she had seen in the news and heard from others, but that because she wasn’t there and didn’t know firsthand the details and the circumstances surrounding what had just occurred, it would be improper and unfair to all involved to try render a judgement regarding what was or was not justified by any of the partcipants until a fuller accounting of what had occured had been received, and that she was in the process of trying to gather that information. Given what Katehi chose to say, I believe she either had poor communications advice or she didn’t listen to her communications team. Her handling of the situation in the hours and days following the incident certainly could have been much better.

  12. civil discourse

    Edgar: “Any ill-intention is so far absent…”

    Edgar, the question is not if there was ill-intention or even criminal activity, but whether or not there is negligence or incompetence on the part of Katehi and other administrators. And whether this rises to the level of needing a change in leadership.

    Besides, it is hard to guage “ill-intention” without minutes or voting. Sometimes not acting is indeed “intention.”

  13. Edgar Wai

    To Civil Discourse:

    I understand your perspective. I was not trying to generalize all perspective against the Chancellor. I understand that there is a continuum of criticism. This is my ranking of the severity of the criticism start with the most severe:

    Rank 4: Nov18 was a systematic setup to terrorize protesters and free speech
    Rank 3: Nov18 was a result of omitting the news about Nov9 at UC Berkeley
    Rank 2: Nov18 was a result due to miscommunication of those involved
    Rank 1: Nov18 was a result due to the strength of the opposition

    On Nov19, Nathan Brown made a Rank 4 accusation against the Administration in his open letter calling for the Chancellor’s resignation: [Ref] ([url]”http://bicyclebarricade.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/open-letter-to-chancellor-linda-p-b-katehi/”[/url]) [Ref2] ([url]”http://www.change.org/petitions/police-pepper-spray-peaceful-uc-davis-students-ask-chancellor-katehi-to-resign”[/url])
    [quote]The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

    Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students.

    In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.[/quote]

    When ill-intentions are unsupported, the permissible Rank of accusation drops to 2, and disqualifies some of the most incriminating points presented in the petition.

    A person should sign a petition only when they agree with every statement made in the petition. On Ref2, please read the comments left by visitors. According to the currently most liked comments:

    #2: I am fiercely proud of them, and will not tolerate Chancellor Katehi’s callous lack of concern for their safety. She has overstepped her authority as Chancellor and has lost all legitimacy with this action.

    #3: Chancellor Katehi’s decision to use force against the UC Davis students in such a manner is outrageous.

    The only interpretation I could make is that the visitors believed that it was the Chancellor’s intention to forcefully remove the tents.

    —–
    How to gauge ill-intention:

    It is easy to gauge ill-intention without minutes or voting. According to the Reynoso report and the actions of the police union (FUPOA), we see that the Union would have had an incentive to sue the Admin if they tried to blame the police for executing their own agenda. However, having read the Reynoso report, the only final objection that remained was not whether the information of the report was biased, but to remove the names of officers. The action of FUPOA is a strong evidence that the Admin did not have ill-intentions.

    If Mary and John return from a date hating each other and started to make accusations, while the truth may not be in their accusations due to their bias and intention to make the other look worst, there is truth in what Mary and John did not accuse. The accuser has the motivation to put the opposition in the worst light.

    If Mary blames John for not turning in his homework, but does not blame him for not doing his homework, then John probably did do his homework.

    The truth is not necessarily in what is said, but in what is not said. The more heated the argument, the truth becomes apparent in high Rank accusations that are not made. The higher ranking accusations are so bogus that even the Accuser would not make.

    Therefore, it is not difficult to tell what the truth is, especially when people are motivated to incriminate each other.

  14. civil discourse

    Edgar: it seems that the police were never told *not* to use pepper spray, therefore they thought the option of pepper spray was still open. This is supported by the report. So nobody is to blame because nobody said that option is off the table, minutes or otherwise.

    My point was that the “silence” on the part of the administration regarding pepper spray could be interpreted as “ill-intent” since they probably knew that is one option the police have, and since they said batons were off the table. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

    Lastly, the reports don’t interview the officers involved. So we don’t know exactly what they heard. Just that they didn’t hear pepper spray was forbidden.

    I don’t understand your homework analogy, by the way.

  15. Edgar Wai

    I understand the meaning of your paragraph 1, but according to the dialogs in the report (Pages 89,99,100,109 of 190), the Chancellor has no authority over that level of detail of the police. Even if the Chancellor did tell the police not to use Pepper Spray at all cost, the police does not, or perhaps should not, listen to the Chancellor. They should in fact equip what they believe they would need on the field. The alternative is to not deploy the police for the task (99/190).

    Your second point is improbable because even the report by Pike himself disproved that because Pike opposed not equipping batons on the grounds of being prepared: (99 and 100/190)
    [quote]Pike: “During our meeting with the Chief of Police, the Chief stated that she did not want the officers carrying their wood batons or wearing their ballistic/protective helmets. The Chief referenced the incidents from the previous week at UC Berkeley wherein the UCBPD officers were videod taped [sic] using their batons against the resisting student activists/occupiers. The Chief of Police opined that the sight of riot gear could increase the potential of the use of force or resistance from the protesters.”

    According to Pike, he and persuaded Chief Spicuzza to allow the officers to carry their batons in their belts and to wear their ballistic/protective helmets, arguing that “the potential for our officers to encounter resistance passive and physical was already heightened by the deadline imposed by the Chancellor in her letter as well as the networking of the Occupiers and their use of social media.” Pike told Chief Spicuzza that he “did not believe this operation would be carried out without some level of resistance or agitation on the part of the student activists/occupiers” and stated that Spicuzza “agreed and dismissed us to further our preparations.”[/quote]
    (Note that although Knoll did not interview Pike, but Pike submitted a “Supplemental Narrative Report”)

    Since Pike is being blamed since November for the use of pepper spray, if the Admin was hinting to the Police to use force, and shifted the blame to them after Nov18, I would expect the Police Union to call foul and I would not expect Pike to submit what he wrote in his Report. Pike would have just said the use of Pepper Spray was not prohibited. He would not have said he wanted to carry batons. Therefore, the Admin did not secretly hint that the Police would use force, if they did, at least Pike didn’t get that secret message.

    P.S. I agree that my homework analogy was bad. Please disregard.

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