Pepper spraying UC Davis police officers put on leave
Two UC Davis police officers who were involved in the use of pepper spray on students at the OccupyUCDavis protest last Friday have been put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, according to The Guardian, BBC and various other media sources.
Part of the Guardian article are some quotes from Charles Kelly, the person who wrote the manual on how to use pepper spray:
Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a “compliance tool” that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.
“When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,” Kelly said. “Bodies don’t have handles on them.”
Using pepper spray causes less harm than lifting protesters seems a little out of touch with the reality of what happened last Friday. First, the pepper spray was used on these students, for which nine had to be treated on the scene and two were taken to the hospital for further treatment for coughing up blood. This strongly indicates that the use of pepper spray does cause harm. Following the pepper spray, the students were still manually lifted, which would suggest that the use of pepper spray is redundant.
Additional contradiction comes from the Press Conference yesterday (Sat, Nov 19th) where both the Chancellor and the UCD police chief said that the pepper spray was used because the police officers felt threatened because they were encircled by students and wanted to get out of the situation. This warranted the use of force on students sitting in the center of the circle as a mean to get out of the circle. The primary objective of the police was not to arrest students, but to remove the tents, which they succeeded at.
Furthermore, the President of the University of California Mark Yudof voiced his dislike of the events of last Friday:
I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.
I intend to do everything in my power as President of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.
Chancellors at the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses already have initiated reviews of incidents that occurred on their campuses. I applaud this rapid response and eagerly await the results.
The University of California, however, is a single university with 10 campuses, and the incidents in recent days cry out for a systemwide response.
Therefore I will be taking immediate steps to set that response in motion.
I intend to convene all 10 chancellors, either in person or by telephone, to engage in a full and unfettered discussion about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.
To that end, I will be asking the chancellors to forward to me at once all relevant protocols and policies already in place on their individual campuses, as well as those that apply to the engagement of non-campus police agencies through mutual aid agreements.
Further, I already have taken steps to assemble experts and stakeholders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes.
My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces. The sworn officers who serve on our campuses are professionals dedicated to the protection of the UC community.
Nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors. They are the leaders of our campuses and they have my full trust and confidence.
Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest.
As I have said before, free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.
Finally, Chancellor Katehi said the following: “I take full responsibility for the incident.”
We will see what happens next, but it seems very likely new protests will erupt tomorrow (Monday, Nov 21st) (Facebook link) and this story will not calm down for the next several days. Also, UC, UC Davis and UCD police can anticipate lawsuits based on previous rulings of a similar case.