DAVIS (CBS13) – The long-awaited task force report on the pepper-spraying incident at the UC Davis campus in November was released Wednesday, and it includes a number of criticisms against police and campus administrators.
The conclusion of the task force was that the Nov. 18 incident “should and could have been prevented.”
The 13-member task force had plenty of blame to go around, finding Chancellor Linda Katehi and her administration responsible for a breakdown in communication and finding Chief of Police Annette Spicuzza at fault for a lack of leadership.
The report cites one officer whose name was redacted as saying while officers pepper sprayed seated students and protesters “the chief was standing in the surrounding crowd filming the actions with her cell phone.”
Task force investigators also found fault with the officers wielding the pepper spray, specifically the most recognized officer, Lt. John Pike. Though they were not allowed to interview Pike for the report “the task force found no justification for the officers’ use of pepper spray.”
The task force also didn’t buy the officers’ initial claim they felt surrounded by a hostile crowd because officers could easily be seen walking those arrested through the crowd.
Nikko Reynoso was part of the crowd pepper-spayed that day.
“I hope people are going to be accountable,” she said. “I didn’t think it would affect me, but it did. It carried. It was thick it was in my mouth on my clothes in my eyes.
But not everyone agrees with the report, or the blame.
“As someone who was there, I saw repeated warnings of students who were sitting in a line,” Nelson Harris said. “I think to not comply with that, they got exactly what they deserved.”
The 190-page “Reynoso Task Force Report” said the decision to use pepper spray against students who had gathered on the quad for an “Occupy UC Davis” protest against tuition costs “not supported by objective evidence and not authorized by policy.”
Among the other findings in the report:
- The incident was not managed according to plan.
- The pepper spray used (MK-9) was not an authorized weapon for UC Davis police offiers and officers were not trained in how to use it.
- Chancellor Katehi bears responsibility for deploying police at 3 p.m. to remove tents rather than earlier in the day or the night before
- Chancellor Katehi bears primary responsibility for failing to communicate her position that physical force should be avoided.
- Lt. JPike bears responsibility for the use of pepper spray on the students.
The report is highly critical of the actions of Police Chief Spicuzza before and after the incident and states “the command and leadership structure of the UCDPD is very dysfunctional.”
Spicuzza and Pike were placed on administrative leave after the incident.
UC President Mark Yudof issued a statement after the report’s release saying in part that, “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.”
The release of the report was delayed after the UC Davis police union sued to block it, saying including names of officers would subject them to harassment. A judge OK’d the release of the report after names of most of the officers were redacted.