David Buscho was not hopeful that the investigation would yield the kinds of findings he saw as needed, but he said, “I think now that a reputable organization like the ACLU is here [and] is involved in representing the interests of the students, I think that now we can actually say that [the university will move in the right direction to rectify the situation].”
“There have already been two extensions of the report that is coming out,” Michael Risher told the Vanguard in February. “We are not going to prejudge those. We’ll be very interested to see what they say. We feel there is also a need for an independent look into this and that’s part of the reason we filed this.”
Fatima Sbeih was stunned when she learned the report was so critical of police action that day.
“My heart stopped. I was like, oh my God, they actually admitted it,” she said.
I too was initially skeptical of the university’s intentions with the external review, particularly when they hired William Bratton, the former LA Police Chief, and his company, Kroll, to head up the review.
However, I changed my mind when I spoke to Cruz Reynoso, who assured me that he would not be part of any whitewashing. He told me right after he was appointed that he had not initially been going to accept the offer, but that in a long discussion with Mark Yudof, he came to believe that the President was sincere and he felt that he would have the credibility to carry this out or to speak out if he felt that Kroll’s report was inadequate.
Moreover, there was a level of brilliance in being able to quell both sides. Reasonable people could not claim that Kroll, led by William Bratton and staffed by retired police officers, was hostile to law enforcement. In fact, critics spent a good deal of time complaining about the choice. On the other hand, while most of the student protesters are too young to know really who Cruz Reynoso is, the broader community does and admires him. In short, getting Cruz Reynoso ensured that a huge section of the Davis community would at least wait for the results.
We have not completed our individual-by-individual review of the reports, but UC definitely deserves credit for developing an open and honest assessment of what happened that can be laid bare for all to view.
As I told one of the members of the university’s news service, it is rarely the act itself that ends up dooming people – although it is difficult to see how Lt. Pike and Chief Spicuzza survive this with their jobs – the real crime is always the cover up. The simplest way to fix that is to have transparency and to admit wrongdoing. Most of the time, reasonable people will be willing to allow for an error.
I am a bit disappointed that Cruz Reynoso, who conducted himself during this investigation in a fantastic and professional manner, and brought diverse people together on his task force – university employees, students and community members – who all came to the same conclusion, then gave the chancellor a vote of confidence.
It is difficult to square his vote of confidence with this conclusion: “Our key finding bears repeating. While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 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.”
On Wednesday, Cruz Reynoso repeatedly told frustrated students that their task was only to review what happened and point fingers where necessary – and point fingers he did – many, and very bluntly. However, the next day he failed to follow his own admonishments when he voiced his vote of confidence for the chancellor.
That being said, the University of California and UC Davis deserve tremendous credit for an honest and critical assessment. This will go a long way toward restoring confidence in the university.
OTHER WINNERS AND LOSERS
We will have our full review of Lt. Pike, Officer P, Officer O and Chancellor Katehi coming up in the next week. But in the meantime, we offer a few more frank assessments about winners and losers.
The big loser in this is the police officer’s union. Despite what their attorney attempted to spin, the actions do not paint the police officers, and in particular Lt. Pike, in any sort of favorable light. While UC was fighting to get the report released, the police officer’s union did everything they could to prevent it from coming out.
Contrary to the assertions of their attorney, this was not about following the law, this was about shielding the police from embarrassing public scrutiny.
Cruz Reynoso was frustrated enough to make the call multiple times for reforms to the commonly-called Police Officers’ Bill of Rights.
He put it in his recommendation, “The Task Force recommends the Office of the President should review provisions of the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights that appear to limit independent public review of police conduct and make appropriate recommendations to the Legislature.”
One of the huge limits of this investigation is, “The Task Force did not have access to the subject officers. This limitation does not serve the police or the public.”
They are totally and completely correct. Some have suggested that we heard only one side of the story; but we did, at least partially, hear the officers’ side, as the investigators had some material by which to assess their side of the story, in addition to scrutinizing the video.
But the point is, that is their own doing.
Writes the task force, “When information necessary to understand and evaluate police conduct is unavailable to the public, the public has less confidence in the police and the police cannot perform their duty without public confidence.”
As Bob Dunning notes, “Lt. John Pike, wrong as he may have been for his decision to use pepper spray on a peaceful line of seated students, is terribly ill-served by his continued silence.”
He adds, “The report is damning in the extreme to Pike and his actions, yet there’s not a word of defense or explanation from Pike himself. He should immediately fire those representing him and sit down with a reporter to tell his side of the story. Silence may be golden, but in Pike’s case, it’s fatal.”
I was impressed with the honest and pointed statements by Senator Lois Wolk, who backed the report not just with contrived fluffy statements that we saw from many leaders, but with actual substance.
She sent the Vanguard an additional statement, backing the recommendations for reviewing the Police Officers Bill of Rights.
She told the Vanguard, “I support the Task Force recommendation that the ‘Office of the President (UCOP) should review provisions of the Police Officers Bill of Rights that appear to limit independent public review of police conduct and make appropriate recommendations to the Legislature.'”
She added, “I look forward to receiving the recommendations from the UCOP and making the appropriate changes so that any future investigations of similar events, at any campus, can be conducted in a more thorough, transparent, and timely manner.”
She concluded, “My primary concern, however, is that UC Davis make the necessary changes recommended by the Reynoso Task Force so that an event like this never happens again.”
But her most pointed comment came in her official release: “I found both reports to be thorough and terribly sobering. The complete system failure identified by the Task Force goes far beyond the shortcomings of any of the individuals involved and the decisions they made. There must be an immediate overhaul of the decision-making process at UC Davis in response to civil disobedience and other campus crises. Significant elements of the UC Davis community have lost trust in their institution and without a high level of trust the campus cannot succeed in its mission. That trust cannot be restored without significant changes in campus policies and procedures.”
“I am particularly struck by several of the problems identified by the Task Force,” she said, and then listed three.
Senator Wolk gets it, which is refreshing to note. The university gets it, at least in so far as the need for transparency and accountability. But, as I said yesterday, talk is cheap; the proof will be in the changes.
As the Woodland Daily Democrat noted this morning: “One would think that California campuses have never seen protests in the past, judging by the ineptitude displayed by both Katehi and campus police.”
The fact of the matter is that I have been covering campus protests since May 1, 2007 and almost every single time, UC Davis has botched it.
The Daily Democrat continues, “Katehi showed a degree of naiveté in weighing a response to protesters camping in the Quad that goes beyond what we would expect of someone with her background.”
“The report of the task force, led by former California Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso, revealed a deeply flawed structure for decision making. Little or no consideration of alternatives, and failing to record and adequately communicate key decisions,” the paper writes. “In short, there was so much waffling taking place that police didn’t know what to do, or — worse — thought they could do what they pleased.”
Can this be fixed? Perhaps. We will be more comfortable making pronouncements on Chancellor Katehi after our thorough review. But the degree to which people around campus are willing to back her is surprising, considering how embarrassingly inept she proved to be at several critical times.
—David M. Greenwald reporting