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UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Incident: After-Action Report

A task force of non-law enforcement officials condemns the handling of Occupy protestors at UC Davis.

April 11, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Screenshot: POLICE file
Screenshot: POLICE file

The independent committee reviewing the pepper spraying of protesters at UC Davis in November issued its after-action report that cited numerous lapses and errors by campus administrators and officers, concluding the incident "should and could have been prevented."

The "Reynoso Task Force Report," which was released today, also specifically calls out Chancellor Linda Katehi, Chief Annette Spicuzza, and Lt. John Pike for mishandling the removal of Occupy protestors and their tents from the campus.

The 190-page report came from a task force that included five administrators, four students, three professors, and a county administrator. Four main sections cite deficiencies in administrative decision-making, the police operation including the use of less-lethal force, and the way key individuals handled the situation. The fourth section offers recommendations.

Administrators made "substantive mistakes" leading up to the Nov. 18 pepper spraying, according to the report, such as failing to determine whether non-students were in the Occupy encampment; not considering options other than clearing the tents; lacking effective decision-making; and being confused about whether the camp could legally be removed.

The report also took aim at the police operation. Most notably, the report claims the use of pepper spray was "not supported by objective evidence" and the MK-9 aerosol canister used by Lt. Pike had not been authorized by the university. A UC Davis Police Department general order allows only MK-4 pepper spray (a smaller canister) to be used by officers.

While acknowledging the officers' concerns that they were surrounded by a hostile mob, the task force said the situation escalated because no arrangements had been made to transport arrestees from the quad. The report criticizes Lt. Pike for his actions and body language, including stepping over seated protesters to "get to their faces."

Chancellor Katehi bears responsibility for the decision to deploy police at 3 p.m. rather than during the night or early morning, according to the report. When removing Occupy protestors, the Oakland Police Department, New York Police Department, and other agencies typically use pre-dawn sweeps to clear encampments from City Hall or parks.

Katehi also failed to convey her position that the police operation should avoid physical force, according to the report. Other administrators were told physical force may be necessary and didn't object.

The report calls the decision to deploy officers imprudent and criticizes Chief Spicuzza for failing to effectively challenge Katehi's 3 p.m. operation. The chief proposed removing the protestors at 3 a.m. Also, the incident commander, who goes unnamed, failed to follow ICS/SEMS command protocol.

Lastly, Lt. Pike's decision to use pepper spray was "objectively unreasonable," the task force determined. During the incident, protestors surrounded officers and chanted, "If you let them go, we will let you leave." However, several other officers were able to move through the crowd freely.

The report offers various remedies, and three specific recommendations for the UC Davis Police Department. The report proposes a full review of UCDPD protocols and procedures, greater student involvement in police functions, and that the department "should strive to be a model of policing."

Read the full report here.

Related:

UC Davis Officers Pepper-Spray Protesters (video)

Alternate View of UC Davis Pepper Spraying (video)

Tags: UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Incident, Campus Safety, Less-Lethal Force, Pepper Spray, Occupy Wall Street, Protests


Comments (18)

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18

Brad @ 4/11/2012 5:01 PM

First of all this country is completely going the wrong direction with people clearly breaking laws and rules! If these people are told to get up and move, they should move or face the consequences of their actions! If that means getting pepper sprayed, so what?? Get up and move! Stop taking up for assclowns that break laws!

pegg696 @ 4/12/2012 4:08 PM

"independent committee "... SUUURRREEE

CAndersen @ 4/12/2012 4:43 PM

No LEOs on the committee?

RonO4 @ 4/12/2012 5:40 PM

This is a little like going to a priest for marriage advice, or the rabbi for a good recipe for ham hocks. Not ONE SINGLE LEO - current or former - on that committee? I am CONVINCED that college administrators DESPISE campus law enforcement, try to undermine it at every turn, and yet are the FIRST to scream and cry when something goes awry.

WSW @ 4/12/2012 6:07 PM

Maybe these administrators and cities should stop sending police out to enforce the law and keep order. The administrators and cities know full well what tools the police have available to them, then have a political hissy fit when they are employed. After that, they fail to educate the public on how use of force works, and throw the police under the bus. Maybe a few administrators should go and control these crowds without police help, or any force options...lets see how that works out.

CRASH @ 4/12/2012 6:17 PM

The people who make up these commities would raise holy hell if some one with no credentials in their field tried to tell them what to do. Yet here we are with no LEO's in the crowd, and they fell qualified to tell us how to clean up their messes. No one tries to demonstrate outside the gates of Camp Lejuene, or Camp Pendleton...we know how that would end!!!

Mark A. Brooks @ 4/12/2012 6:49 PM

What's it matter what size can of pepper spray they use?

Troy @ 4/12/2012 9:56 PM

I find this committee to be "unreasonable". The Officer gave a lawful command and after much patience sprayed their faces in accordance with proper deployment of the aerosol pepper spray. If not the suspects face where should he have sprayed? Second their is not a requirement to clear the camp at any particular time. It's a University not a camp ground for potheads covered in cheap tattoos. We are becoming a lawless society and with great hypocrisy claiming to have higher progressive morality. Let's look at what Occupy has tried to accomplish; shut down major centers of education, public lands and commerce while living a nieve socialist fantasy, why not, they've contributed nothing and have nothing to loose. If they want a redress of grievance why arent they in front of the Whitehouse? I think one can figure out who the people who are behind this whole thing. Perhaps Police need someone to stop them acting "stupidly"....We know Union leaders and Socialists are behind this. We also know that they meet with the President based upon Whitehouse records. It's an election year. Without Occupy the tea party would go unchecked. This whole thing is disgusting.

pdtrainer @ 4/13/2012 4:47 AM

Another fine example of California liberals gone wild. Not a single LE representative on the panel - WOW! The laws are on the books for a reason - to be followed - even by liberal protesters! Obviously this small but important point was ignored by the panel who also did not feel the need to look at the LE response from the considerations of the responding officers. Sounds like an awful lot of Monday morning quarterbacking with a very liberal dose of kissing up to the politicos and trustees was really going on with this panel of "experts". As for the Chief and Lt. - stand your ground and give the fight back to them! Then I would suggest finding an Agency that will back you and not throw you under the bus at the first sign of a complaint. The people who served on this panel should feel utterly ridiculous and be ashamed to put their name on such a document. The police may not always be absolutely 100 percent right in everything - but when they are clearly acting properly and minor mistakes are made - they should still be supported!

Random @ 4/13/2012 7:35 AM

Right or wrong this is a political nightmare. New tools need to come available to LEO. It is not the spraying that was the problem. It was that the spraying looked rood/scary. Fire hoses cannot be used any more, because of the civil rights 60s connotation.
Any ideas?

Tom Ret @ 4/13/2012 7:42 AM

This committee and its findings are laughable. The cops on that campus might as well just go to the coffee shop and stay there.

DaveSAM25G @ 4/13/2012 10:50 PM

The first thing I noticed about the UC Davis report was that no one on the committee had any law enforcement background. That alone is enough to show the bias in the report. Oh well, what can you say?

JReb @ 4/14/2012 8:29 PM

"The 190-page report came from a task force that included five administrators, four students, three professors, and a county administrator."

Anybody but me notice a conspicuous absence here? Like the inclusion of ANYONE who has ANY law enforcement experience, training, or knowledge?

Sgtbuck187 @ 4/24/2012 3:51 PM

Over-saturation with media and pepper spray (poor tactics). Media showed our "poor babies" actually crying after getted sprayed. News media acted as if the campus police had shot them or done a Rodney King thing. What did the protesters expect would happen when they violated the law? No police media reps giving the police side of things during hysterical student reactions (like it comes off with water and no damage is done).

Buck @ 4/25/2012 5:04 PM

That panel is full of crap. No LEOs putting in input. Who gives a shit what that panel recommends? I recommend that panel take a long walk off of ashort pier.

AJ @ 4/26/2012 6:32 AM

Random: Actually the actions of law enforcement were spot on. Though in a perfect world you should take custody and charge someone if you have to use OC spray on them. I think the word you are looking for is "rude" and that really does not matter. They use a non-lethal form of force by spraying them. Had they done hands on and used strikes, arm-bars, etc... it would have looked far worse. Watching the ENTIRE video it is clear they did everything they could to avoid having to use force and when they did it was reasonable and appropriate.

Sparkey @ 4/26/2012 7:27 AM

An officer breaks state law as well as internal regulations while pepper spraying a group of non-violent students that were legally on campus. Seems pretty reasonable to me to find him at fault.

Capt. Crunch @ 7/29/2013 4:02 PM

Right on Buck and let them take Sparkey, with them.

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