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UC Task Force Says Pepper Spray Should Not Have Been Used on Students [Updated]

The task force report said that the Nov. 18 incident could have been prevented.

This post has been corrected. Please see note below.

A University of California task force released a report Wednesday saying that pepper spray should not have been used on student protesters in November.

UC Task Force said that UC Davis Police should not have used pepper-spray on students (Photo courtesy AP).
UC Task Force said that UC Davis Police should not have used pepper-spray on students (Photo courtesy AP).

The decision by officers to douse a line of seated Occupy protesters with the eye-stinging chemical was “objectively unreasonable” and not authorized by campus policy, according to the report.

“The pepper-spraying incident that took place on Nov. 18, 2011, should and could have been prevented,” the task force said.

The task force blamed poor communication and planning throughout the campus chain of command.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement Wednesday regarding the incident:

"While the report was clear there were individuals and procedures that directly and indirectly led to this unacceptable incident, the task force was not asked to make recommendations for disciplinary action. While there is a concurrent internal affairs investigation ongoing into the conduct of the police, the findings in this report make it clear that immediate and demonstrative action must be taken by the Chancellor and UC President to restore the public trust in UC Davis and the UC system."

Lt. John Pike and other officers involved in the operation have said they needed to use pepper spray to break through a hostile crowd. However, the investigation determined police were able to step over the seated protesters.

A separate university task force is working on a report on how school officials should respond to student protests at all UC campuses, said UC system president Mark Yudof.

“Free speech, including nonviolent protest, is part of the DNA of this University, and it must be protected with vigilance,” Yudof said in a statement. “I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful fashion, and I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”

[For the Record, 7:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC Task Force report called for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. Again, this information is not correct. The report gave no recommendations on personnel changes.]

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