Crime, Fire + Courts

Former LAPD chief to head pepper-spraying probe

By From page A1 | November 23, 2011

William Bratton. Courtesy photo

William Bratton. Courtesy photo

The former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, William Bratton, will head up a review of Friday’s arrest and pepper-spraying of unarmed Occupy UC Davis protesters.

UC President Mark Yudof asked Bratton to report back within 30 days. Yudof did so in response to separate requests from UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

“My intent,” Yudof said in a news release, “is to provide the chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.”

Bratton’s report will be presented to an advisory panel of students, faculty, staff “and other UC community members.” Its members have not yet been named.

That panel will make recommendations to better ensure the safety of nonviolent protesters to Katehi. She, in turn, will present to Yudof a plan for implementing changes, according to the news release.

One of the country’s best known lawmen, Bratton, 64, led the LAPD from 2002 to 2009. He previously served as police commissioner in New York City and Boston.

More recently, Bratton has launched a global security firm, Altegrity Risk International, and been tapped by British Prime Minister David Cameron for advice in curbing gang violence in that country.

Bratton’s selection to lead the review may prove to be a controversial one with student protesters.

Speaking in an August interview with The Telegraph newspaper, after rioting in England, Bratton said police should have “a lot of arrows in the quiver.” He advocated a doctrine of “escalating force” with weapons including rubber bullets, Tasers, pepper spray and water cannons, the paper reported.

“In my experience, the younger criminal element don’t fear the police and have been emboldened to challenge the police and effectively take them on,” Bratton told The Telegraph.

In Los Angeles, he earned praise from city officials for the falling crime rate there, as well as a grudging respect from some critics for outreach to the black and Latino communities.

When Bratton announced his resignation, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa credited him with transforming the LAPD “into a beacon of progress and professionalism, a department seen as a partner, not an adversary, no longer bound by the misdeeds of the past.”

Bratton’s time in Los Angeles was not without controversy for the department, including a clash with unarmed protesters.

The city paid $13 million to settle lawsuits and took disciplinary steps after officers at a May 2007 immigration rally fired foam rounds into a crowd, instead of at the ground in keeping with policy, and struck protesters and journalists more than 100 times with batons, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I’m certainly not proud of the event, but I am proud of the report,” Bratton told the Times on Tuesday, adding, “I am looking for a similar report that will give a truthful and objective, candid account of the events” at UCD.

Bratton will lead one of four planned investigations related to the UCD incident.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is also investigating whether excessive force was used; the UCD Academic Senate is planning a probe; and Katehi said Tuesday that an outside firm would be providing a departmentwide review of UCD’s police.

Yudof also named UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to lead a systemwide examination of how all 10 campuses deal with nonviolent protests.

“We are moving forward to identify what needs to be done to ensure the safety of students and others who engage in non-violent protests on UC campuses,” Yudof said. “The right to peaceful protest on all of our campuses must be protected.”

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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