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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Students press UCD administrators on police actions

An estimated crowd of one thousand people attended the town hall meeting. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | November 23, 2011 |

Letters, press releases, news conferences, public appearances, television interviews, local newspaper coverage, national newspaper coverage, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, after Tuesday night, a student-run town hall meeting.

The latter is the latest in an attempt by Chancellor Linda Katehi and UC Davis to address the acrimony voiced since Friday, when campus cops arrested and pepper-sprayed unarmed Occupy UC Davis protesters.

In front of a close-to-capacity crowd of more than 1,000 people Tuesday at Freeborn Hall, Katehi shared the stage with several university officials, including acting Police Chief Matt Carmichael, to respond to the concerns of the campus community.

“I want to truly apologize to the entire community for the appalling use of pepper spray,” Katehi said in her opening remarks. “It betrayed our values and did not reflect well on this university.”

She also announced that she will request that the charges be dropped against the 10 protesters arrested by university police. In addition, she said any medical expenses incurred by those hurt will be refunded.

Also on Tuesday:

* Plans began taking shape for three investigations into Friday’s incident, from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, UCD Academic Senate and William Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The campus also plans to hire a consultant to evaluate its Police Department.

* Legislators announced a Dec. 14 hearing to examine the recent use of force on the Davis and UC Berkeley campuses.

* A general assembly of more than 150 protesters passed a vote of no confidence in the chancellor. The protesters also are demanding that the chancellor’s office be run in a more democratic way, with recall votes allowed for sitting chancellors.

* At the new camp on the Quad, Katehi said tents could remain while the task force works, as long as everyone is peaceful and safe.

She also asked students for their help in maintaining a civil discourse when a handful of University of California regents come to campus Monday to take public comment. Occupy UC Davis has called a general strike for the same day.

* UCD’s elected student government leaders have asked the California Attorney General’s Office to look into what happened Friday.

* One day after members of UCD’s English department called for Katehi’s resignation, a majority of the physics department faculty did the same.

The professors wrote that they appreciated the chancellor’s work to maintain the university in difficult budgetary times, but that “this incident and the inadequacy of your response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents and alumni of UC Davis to lose confidence in your leadership.”

* In a letter to The Enterprise, 10 members of the economics department wrote that they felt it premature to call for resignations — but that those responsible must be held accountable.

Many of the community members who attended the meeting Tuesday evening were still looking for a place where they could lay the blame for Friday’s events, but culpability seemed to jump around the room.

After a student asked why Katehi ordered armed police officers onto campus to disperse the peaceful protest, the chancellor, who has received more than 100,000 requests for her resignation via online petitions, explained that the police were not acting under her orders when they pepper-sprayed and arrested students.

“The police do not report to me,” Katehi said. “(The department) reports to the vice chancellor for administrative and resource management (John Meyer). The only thing that a chancellor can do is to make a decision of whether the police needs to have, in that particular case, the dismantling of equipment (the encampment).

“Beyond that I don’t have the right to direct the police to do anything. As a matter of fact, the University of California protocol specifies that I do not do that.”

Katehi’s response yielded a pair of names. The first was that of UCD’s police chief, Annette Spicuzza, whom the university placed on administrative leave on Saturday. She did not attend the meeting.

The other was John Meyer’s.

He was sitting in the crowd listening to the town hall meeting with the rest of the UCD community at the outset, but after Katehi pointed to him as the administrator who manages the campus Police Department, audience members requested his presence on the stage.

At the podium, Meyer detailed everything he and his staff considered leading up to Friday’s events.

“There was some concern, frankly, about if (the encampment) really grows and if there’s a large number of non-affiliates (people not associated with the campus),” Meyer said.

“We had the police chief go in and ask that those tents and encampment be removed and the general direction was (that) we don’t want to see scenes like we saw at UC Berkeley, but we do want to take action.

“We talked about the decision to try to see if police could engage in that, but if the scene became too difficult we didn’t think it was going to end as it ended, that if there was conflict that we were pulling back and not to have it go where it went,” Meyer continued.

“Once these actions begin, however, I have to tell you that, as the chancellor has referred, there is great discretion given to officers both for their safety and the scene, to make decisions in the field.

“We can all probably stipulate ‘Was this the right decision? Is it compliant with policy?’ That is all going to be revealed through some of these reviews.”

Meyer’s comments redirected the spotlight to the campus Police Department, and perhaps specifically to Spicuzza and Lt. John Pike, the incident commander seen pepper-spraying the students in the viral video that drew worldwide attention and 2,000 to 5,000 people to campus Monday. (Pike and another officer also have been placed on leave for their actions.)

It was Katehi who took the brunt of Tuesday’s questioning, however.

Chuck Parker, an undergraduate student who was arrested Friday, asked what the university plans to do to make the campus a safer place at which to protest.

“I want to know what you’re doing right now, today, to make sure that students have the right to protest, the right of free speech and have the right to do that safely,” he said.

Responded the chancellor, “I can tell you that we are going to have to make changes. I can tell you that right now and those changes will be implemented in a way that allows for peaceful demonstrations.

“There is going to be a very broad discussion about that,” she continued. “I can tell you this: It’s not going to be my decision of how it has to be, it will be a decision that will come out of many voices. But I can promise to you that there is going to be a process that brings those voices forward.”

— Enterprise staff writer Cory Golden contributed to this report. Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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