University of California Davis police violated policy and used poor judgment in pepper-spraying student demonstrators in November, while school leaders badly bungled the handling of that campus protest, according to a highly critical report quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented,” said a university-appointed task force chaired by retired state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
The study strongly rebutted campus police claims that Occupy demonstrators who had pitched tents on a quad posed a violent threat. It said administrators wrongly assumed that many protesters were off-campus troublemakers. The report, and an accompanying one by the Kroll security consulting firm, detailed “a cascading series of errors” and poorly timed efforts to evict the campers. It questioned the legal basis for the operation. The actions led to an international furor after an online video showing campus police Lt. John Pike repeatedly spraying the chemical irritant into the faces of seated students went viral. Pike contended that the spray was the “most appropriate” tool on hand to deal with what he described as an unruly mob encircling the officers.