In the hours and days that followed the November 18 pepper spray event, Chancellor Linda Katehi would at first deflect, then take “full responsibility” for the fiasco. It is still not clear what it means for her to take “full responsibility.”
At the time of this press, there appears that the Chancellor will survive this, even as the reports paint a disturbing picture of miscalculation and incompetence that goes from the Chancellor’s office to the actions of Lt. Pike and his fateful decision to use pepper spray on seated protesters engaging in what was non-violent protest of university policies and perhaps the illegal tent clearing operation.
The mistakes at the administrative level – all of which ultimately fall on the shoulders of the chancellor are many: failure to investigate the presence of non-affiliates, decision to deploy the police to remove the tents before considering less aggressive measures, failure to determine the legal authority for the operation.
The Task Force singles out the chancellor herself for the decision to deploy police at 3 pm rather than the middle of the day, the chancellor failed to adequately communicate her position on the avoidance of physical force – something that she claimed after the fact. The Chancellor along with the rest of the leadership team shares the responsibility for the decision to remove the tents.
Chancellor Katehi needs to be graded harshly on the poor communication throughout the administration and also needs to be graded harshly for miscalculations and for making critical decision such as the timing of the operation without either fully communicating with the police and without full buy-in from the police.
Most importantly, as the Kroll report explains, “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.”
Because we have covered many of the details of the Chancellor’s involvement previous, this report will be more of synopsis and analysis of her specific role.
As we have reported previously, the concern about Occupy Oakland and the November 9 events underlie the concern of Chancellor Katehi and prompt the eventual decision to remove the tents.
It is this fear of “non-affiliates” that becomes the base concern and indeed, on December 20 when the Chancellor was interviewed by Kroll, she expressed concern about the involvement of “non-affiliates” with the UC Davis Occupy movement and encampment.
Like the Vice-Chancellor the concern for “young girls” sleeping in the tents seems to drive this concern.
Chancellor Katehi stated, “We were worried at the time about that [nonaffiliates] because the issues from Oakland were in the news and 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 . . . if anything happens to any student while we’re in violation of policy, it’s a very tough thing to overcome.”
Indeed, in Chancellor Katehi’s letter distributed to campus protesters on Nov. 18, the day of the pepper spray incident, the Chancellor wrote “We are aware that many of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus are not members of the UC Davis community. This requires us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff.”
However, as Kroll notes, and the Task Force concurs, “these concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll.”
As we also know, there was evidence provided by Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro questioning their belief that there large number of unaffiliated people in the camps.
The Task Force reports, “Assistant Vice Chancellor Castro explicitly challenged Chief Spicuzza’s report that a substantial number of the protesters at the encampment were non-affiliates and the Police Chief conceded that Castro’s information was more credible than the reports of her officers.”
However, the Chancellor challenged the report of Ms. Castro, asking if she could “prove” that the protesters were mostly students. Castro replied, “I didn’t ask for IDs. It’s just from my sense of what I know.” The Leadership Team did not discuss the matter further.
As the Task Force reports, “To date, the assertion that many non-affiliates were involved in the Occupy movement encampment on the Quad has not been substantiated. The status of the protesters arrested on Nov. 18 does not support the contention that many non-affiliates were involved in these events.”
The Task Force also notes that there was no evidence that they saw that any further inquiry was conducted to resolve this question.
Writes Kroll in their analysis: “Leaving aside the question of whether this is a valid view of non-affiliates and the threat they pose, there is first the factual question of the extent to which non-affiliates were involved in the encampment.”
Leading up to the eviction, Chancellor Katehi and Vice Chancellor Meyer were not swayed by the reports from Student Affairs staff that the Occupy activists were overwhelmingly comprised of students;” and remarkably, Kroll writes, “even after nine of the ten individuals arrested on November 18 were found to be students (or recent alumni), the perception that there was a significant presence of non-affiliates persisted.”
Chancellor Katehi apparently envisioned the deployment of police on Nov. 18 “to be a limited operation in which police would demand that the tents be taken down but would use no other force to accomplish their mission if the protesters resisted their efforts.” The Task force notes critically, “The chancellor did not effectively communicate this expectation to other members of the Leadership Team.”
In fact they note, “It is clear that different members of the Leadership Team understood the scope and conduct of the police operation differently.”
And no one on the Leadership Team took the responsibility to ensure that everyone was on the same page. As the Kroll Report concludes, there was a “significant gap between the instructions that Chancellor Katehi believed the Leadership Team had provided to campus police (‘no violence’) and the police operation that was planned, mounted, and finally carried out by the campus police under her authority.”
Task Force puts the primary responsibility for the failure to communicate her position of non-force on the Chancellor.
They note that at the November 17 meetings, “Chancellor Katehi failed to express in any meaningful way her expectation that the police operation was to be sharply limited so that no use of force would be employed by police officers other than their demand that the tents be taken down.”
They add, “The lack of effective communication by the Chancellor at this time not only contributed to misunderstandings that made it difficult to evaluate the decision to use police to take down the tents. This communication failure also substantially undermined the goal of avoiding a physical confrontation between the police and protesters.”
The Task Force nailed the administration in particular for the lack of clear lines delineating responsibility for decision making between the civilian administrators and the police.
Kroll hits the note perfectly when they write, it was “a process where the police department failed to express its objections and concerns adequately, while the administration failed both to hear the police and to understand that they were ‘heard’ to be issuing an order.”
Worse yet, there is not only a communication issue here but a clear line is crossed. Kroll notes that “the evidence indicates that it was Chancellor Katehi who chose this time frame…and that police leadership opposed this time frame but failed to register a strong objection to it with the Leadership Team.”
“On the 10 p.m. call, Chancellor Katehi expressed her concern that Friday night was a “party night” and the bars would be closing just prior to the time of the operation,” Kroll reports.
Kroll continues, “According to Chancellor Katehi, she had observed that “there are a lot of kids who go out to private parties very late … as you go to Saturday. And we thought … we did not want this to become a place where people come for fun. We worried about the use of alcohol and drugs and everything.”
Chancellor Katehi “was adamant that she didn’t want them to stay one more night” and “was worried, since it was a Friday night that it would become a party and impossible for us to do what was asked of us…remove the tents.”
Furthermore, Kroll views the “timing of any police operation is a key tactical consideration” to be determined by the Police Chief. Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day.”
The Task Force aptly sums up the problem: “The above example is illuminating in that it showcases a process where a major incident objective was determined in an ad hoc setting and where the principal decision maker, Chancellor Katehi, did not realize her statement was both viewed as an “executive order” and a “tactical decision.””
Therefore, the Task Force assigns primary individual responsibility to the Chancellor for the decision to deploy the police at 3 pm rather than during the night or early in the morning. The result of that meant that instead of a relatively small group, the police had to deal with a large and growing crowd.
As the Task Force writes, “No one can know for certain what would have happened if the police operation had been conducted in the early morning on Saturday, or a day or two later on Sunday or Monday night. What is clear is that the timing of a police operation is a tactical decision that should be determined by police officers rather than civilian administrators.”
Adds Kroll, “By insisting that the tents not be allowed to stay up on Friday night, Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day.”
We have already spent quite a bit of time discussing the lack of legal basis for the police operation. As we know, Kroll indicates that they were “unable to identify the legal basis for the decision of the Leadership Team to act against the protesters and for the operation mounted by the UCDPD.”
Kroll writes quoting the Chancellor, “it became clear … from Griselda [Castro] that [the activists] did not want to talk, at least there was a big group … that was not interested in being engaged. Then we said, ‘All right, well, how can we remove the tents?’ That was the discussion.”
According to Chancellor Katehi, “in all of these phone calls [leading up to November 18], I never felt that I made an executive decision where people disagreed. I felt that we were coming to a decision as a group.”
In fact, according to Kroll, the Chancellor was not sure when the final decision was made to remove the encampment from the Quad. What we do know is that it was Lt. Pike and Lt. Swartwood who were the ones who questioned the legality of the operation and who demanded to speak to Campus Council Sweeney.
The key finding of the Kroll report 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.”
Moreover, the UC Davis Administrative code makes clear that the Chancellor “is the person ultimately responsible for all functions of the campus community.”
Indeed, the Chancellor attempts to diffuse responsibility as she told Kroll Investigators “the Chancellor told Kroll investigators that she favors a participatory style of leadership involving consensus-building rather than an authoritative style of leadership.”
However, as the Task Force points out, it was precisely this “informal, consensus-based decision-making process” that proved “ineffective for supporting a major extraordinary event.”
As Kroll describes it, “The Leadership Team did not have a formal name or roster of members, met via conference call, and did not have an agreed upon method to communicate or record decisions.”
Writes the Task Force, “This structure failed to effectively support managing the events of November 18.”
The Task Force argues that NIMS/ SEMS protocols call for “a formal organizational structure and decision-making process when preparing for or managing major events. The process by which incident objectives are determined is clearly defined and recorded. The very purpose of this formal structure is to ensure uniform understanding and reduce miscommunication.”
Kroll adds, “the outcome is that “key decision-makers on the Leadership Team held conflicting views on what decisions were made, when they were made and the basis on which they were made.”
It would appear that so long as Chancellor Katehi is able to achieve her fundraising goals, President Yudof, the Board of Regents and even much of the faculty is willing to overlook this embarrassing string of failures that culminated in the national embarrassment that was pepper spray incident.
It would appear that despite damning and embarrassing incompetence both in the structure and processes as well as the decisions – all of which led to the pepper spray – that Chancellor Katehi will get another chance to get this right or have a repeat incident.
—David M. Greenwald reporting