Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza was played on paid administrative leave shortly after the pepper spray incident went down on November 18, 2011. The question now is what will happen to her.
The Task Force nails her on multiple occasions in their summary of event. They write, “Chief Spicuzza bears individual responsibility for failing to challenge the leadership team’s decision on the time of the police operation and for not clarifying the role the police were expected to play during the operation.”
They add: “She is also responsible for numerous deviations from best police practices both before and during the operation.”
The reality is even far worse than that as the report paints a picture not only indecisiveness but incompetence to the point where even her own people did not follow her orders.
The Reynoso report writes, “Police Chief Spicuzza, at least initially, argued to her officers that the police operation was to be limited in various respects. She attempted, unsuccessfully, to dissuade her officers from using batons and pepper spray or to prevent them from wearing “riot gear” during the operation.
They add, “There is also evidence that she wanted her officers to withdraw if they encountered resistance.”
The Task Force report describes a complete breakdown in the leadership in the UCD Police Department.
They write: “The command and leadership structure of the UCDPD is very dysfunctional. Lieutenants refused to follow directives of the Chief.”
They add a shocking and appalling statement: “This breakdown is illustrated by the heated exchanges between the Chief and her Lieutenants as to the scope and conduct of the operation and the Chief’s apparent concession that her officers will do things their own way and there is nothing she can do about it.”
For this and this alone, the chief needs to immediately be terminated. There can be no avoiding this fact.
Likewise Kroll relates to a discussion that Chief Spicuzza and her Lieutenants had regarding the use of batons and pepper spray. Chief Spicuzza according to an interview with Leticia Garcia-Hernandez said that didn’t want them to be used.
According to Ms. Garcia-Hernandez, “Both the Lieutenants echoed back to her, “nobody wants to do that. But we can’t predict if we’re gonna have to use them.”
Ms. Garcia-Hernandez “believed that the Lieutenants made Chief Spicuzza aware that both pepper ball guns and pepper spray were among the less-lethal weapons that they would have at their disposal.”
In response, Chief Spicuzza “lifted her hand up off the table, waved to them, like, ‘No, no. We don’t wanna use that kinda thing.'”257 The Lieutenants replied “we know we’re not supposed to use it, but … it’s the less lethal tool that we have.”
Chief Spicuzza replied “Yeah, yeah, I understand” and the conversation moved on to the mutual aid response.
Kroll furthermore reports, “Also that night, Chief Spicuzza told the Lieutenants that she didn’t want them wearing helmets and face shields, or “riot gear, as she called it,” according to Garcia-Hernandez.”
The Lieutenants replied, “you cannot tell somebody to walk into a situation like that without their safety gear” and called her suggestion “ridiculous.”
Kroll further notes that at this point, Lt. Pike believed they were planning for an early morning operation and that they had never resolved their differences regarding the use of equipment or pepper spray.
As we have noted previously, one of the key issues was the strategic and tactical decision to change the removal time from 3 am to 3 pm which possessed a number of problems including both legality and size of the crowd.
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.”
Furthermore, Kroll views that the “timing of any police operation is a key tactical consideration” to be determined by the police chief. The Task Force writes, “Chancellor Katehi did in fact make a tactical decision: that the tents would be removed during the day.”
Kroll notes, however, that there was no objection by the police chief to this tactical intrusion, stating, “Meyer stated that there was no ‘push back’ regarding the 3:00 pm Friday afternoon time from Chief Spicuzza or anyone else on the conference call” and that “Chief Spicuzza did not raise any strategic or tactical objections to the 3:00 pm operation.”
The Task Force adds, “No member of the Leadership Team recalls such concerns being communicated to them by Chief Spicuzza.”
The Task Force assigns the responsibility of the decision to deploy police at 3 pm rather than 3 am to Chancellor Katehi.
Chief Spicuzza wanted to postpone the operation to 3 am on Saturday the following day, but “Leadership Team members on the call other than Chief Spicuzza worried that conducting the operation in the dark might be unsafe.”
Moreover, the Task Force and Kroll takes everyone to task for the failure to establish legal grounds for the action that they were undertaking, “Even on November 18, Police Department leadership continued to question their legal authority to remove tents during the day in order to implement legal prohibitions against overnight camping.”
The report also nails the Chief for either failure to clearly define or inappropriately define the roles of supervisors of the police in the field.
The report argues, “the assignment of the two lieutenants to the actual dismantling of the tents by the Chief of Police was an inappropriate role for supervisors, especially for the Incident Commander.”
Not only were there deficiencies in the operations plan, but the incident was not managed according to that plan and this, at least according Kroll falls on the Chief of Police.
As Kroll reports, “The actions of the Chief of Police caused confusion during this operation. She was not present at the pre-event briefing and is not listed in any form on the operations plan. Her role in the field, where she was present on the Quad but not with the police, and was calling in directions via the command post, was problematic and added to the confusion already present in the operation. Indeed, at least one officer stated in his interview that during the most turbulent minutes of this operation, he observed the chief standing opposite him in the crowd filming the police actions with her cell phone.”
There was no role defined for Lt. Pike who “appears to have made the command decision to use pepper spray. No one in a command position was in the Department Operations Center, which impaired coordination and communication.”
Furthermore, the Task Force writes, “There is no evidence that standard debriefings occurred after the incident or that after-incident reports were appropriately prepared. The lack of standard, after-incident reports impede a thorough review of what happened from the police perspective.”
The Task Force report hammers Chief Spicuzza’s actions “both with regard to the Leadership Team (her superiors) and the Lieutenants in command of the operation (her subordinates) were critically flawed.”
They write: “In terms of the Leadership Team, those mistakes contributed to the imprudent decisions to deploy police at all, as well as to do so during the day. As Kroll explained and we discussed above, the decision to launch the operation in the afternoon “was a key factor in the growth of the crowd which resulted in the encirclement of police and the decision to use pepper spray.””
They add, “In terms of the police operations, the Chief’s mistakes led to poor tactical decisions and, in Kroll’s words, reflected a failure to “perform in the manner that police commanders during such an incident should . . . conduct themselves.””
They continue, “the Chief did not attend the department’s operational briefing for its Nov. 18 response, and yet – without assuming actual command responsibility – “from the moment her officers were deployed on the Quad, [the Chief] began relaying orders to them via her cell phone.””
They cite her again for failing to challenge the 3 pm proposed time for operations. They write, “Whether she voiced objections to the proposal is unclear; however, even if she had, “it appears that the objections were not clearly expressed to the . . . Leadership Team.””
Moreover they add, “As the highest ranking officer on UCDPD, she must have known of the tactical significance of the timing of the operation, and it was her duty to “affirmatively resist” the Chancellor’s misguided tactical direction.”
They conclude here: “Had Chief Spicuzza objected forcefully to the timing of the police operation or the Chancellor making a tactical decision, the entire Leadership Team might have hesitated to go forward with a 3 p.m. operation.”
But the report goes further than that.
They criticize the chief for her failure to clarify the police’s role in the operation and the legal basis for police involvement.
“She also failed to convey adequately to the Leadership Team the probability of escalating use of force in such an operation,” the report notes noting that Lt. Pike and OFFICER P insisted “on wearing riot gear despite her contrary instructions” thus suggested that any use of force would be difficult to avoid.
The portion of the report concludes this section noting, “the Chief should have been well aware of the risk and made that risk clear to the policymakers to whom she reported.”
There is also the curious actions of the chief during the operation itself.
Kroll reports that the Chief instead of staying at dispatch to make command decisions, went to the quad.
Kroll writes, “On Friday, November 18, Garcia-Hernandez “was asking ‘who’s gonna stay with me [at the DOC] and make incident command decisions?’ and the Chief says, ‘Well … I’m gonna go out to the Quad and scope it out myself.'” They continue: “And she disappeared.”
The Chief would then call Ms. Garcia-Hernandez on her cell and relay messages to Officer P.
There was an operational briefing that Lt. Pike held at 2:30 pm and Chief Spicuzza was not at the briefing.
Chief Spicuzza read the letter to disperse and gave it to the protesters and then sat her car at the edge of the quad.
Karen Nikos, a senior public information representative was with the Chief and reported to Kroll: “the Chief called them on her cell phone and said, “that looks really bad, I don’t want to come in here like an army. Could you change that?” And they apparently told her, “no.” Then Chief Spicuzza said “this looks bad. I don’t want to come in here forcefully. I want this to be very”-Nikos was unsure if she used the word “gentle” but she was kind of indicating that. Then Chief Spicuzza turned to Nikos and said, “you know, there’s a limit to what I can do, because they have training that tells them to do things a certain way.”
At some point Kroll describes that “Chief Spicuzza called Garcia-Hernandez and said, “Tell them not to use their sticks.” When she relayed this message to Officer P, he said, “We have a whole ‘nother problem here that … she’s not aware of.”
The most curious incident is that 15 to 20 yards away from Officer L, he said “was the chief of Police staring at me with her camera, videotaping me with her iPhone.”
Kroll notes, “Other officers said that they observed Chief Spicuzza outside of the encircled crowd observing the events.”
During a debriefing, Chief Spicuzza told the officers that they “did an outstanding job.” Moreover, she said, she was “proud of how we handled the situation.”
In summary, the Kroll team cites an order by the police chief without any asserted legal authority for the order to clear the quad. Furthermore, “Chief Spicuzza failed to challenge or question this administrative policy directive at crucial decision points. Indeed, according to Pike’s Supplemental Narrative Report, it was Lieutenants Pike and OFFICER P who demanded the last-minute call to Campus Counsel to obtain legal guidance.”
Kroll continues, “The timing of any police operation is a key tactical consideration and Chief Spicuzza should have affirmatively resisted this direction-that is, assuming she did not agree with it. Chief Spicuzza’s position is unclear: she clearly considered 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning as a first choice and 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning as a second choice. Kroll has not determined whether Chief Spicuzza viewed 3:00 p.m. as simply the third choice or whether she strongly objected to this timing on tactical/operational grounds.”
Kroll goes on to argue that Lt. Pike “was hampered by repeated failed leadership of Chief Spicuzza, his supervisor, who did not attend the briefing for the operation, did not raise objections to the flawed plans suggested by the administration, and played an unusual, disengaged role at the scene.”
The call the Chief action deficient as “she failed to say “no” to the Chancellor when suboptimal tactical decisions were being promoted; when she saw things during the police operation not occurring to her satisfaction, she did not to step in and assume command. Rather, the Chief chose to call repeatedly the Department Operations Command post and relay instructions.”
Reading this account, it is difficult to imagine how the chief, whose own lieutenants are not listening to her orders and direction could keep her job. She has already been on paid leave since just after the incident, the only real question appears to be when the determination is made to terminate her.
—David M. Greenwald reporting