Were Police Justified in Pepper Spraying UC Davis Students?

We ask readers of Dixon Patch if police were justified in pepper spraying Occupy UC Davis protesters Friday

If you haven't seen the video of UC Davis Police pepper spraying students on campus during Occupy UC Davis, click on the attached video.

Then, answer this poll and drop a comment.


Ian Arnold November 27, 2011 at 08:31 AM
Interesting point. Having read Mr. Hickman's opinion and those of some others who believe in the Second Amendment, I'm left wondering how to resolve the dichotomy. Do you believe we have the right to arm ourselves in order to defend ourselves from our government or do you believe the UCD police were justified in the use of force against civilians peacefully protesting? If you believe both, please help me to understand how that's even possible.
Aaron November 27, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Ian, I guess if you put the question as you did, you might see an issue that is difficult to resolve. However, if you ask if it's possible to strongly support 2nd ammendment rights, AND support the police using force against protesters, I'd be happy to explain it to you. Start by considering that everything is not black and white. Sometimes peaceful protesters are breaking the law and sometimes police need to use force to affect arrests. As an answer to Tom's question... People have the right to (reasonable) self defense against an officer using unreasonable force against them, but they had better be certain the force was unreasonable. In the case of the officers in Davis, believe it or not, the jury is still out on whether the force was reasonable or unreasonable. Just becasue the Chancellor or the Chief says it was, doesn't make it so. The investigation needs to be completed by those who understand police force options before that determination is made.
Aaron November 27, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Wow, what a loaded statement! What level of "self defense" would you consider to be their right had they believed they were experiencing unreasonable force? What will you say if police force experts with actual knowledge of case law (relative to police force) rule the force was reasonable after an appropriate investigation? You have to admit, we should wait for an investigation before throwing around too much speculation.
Luella Guaydacan November 27, 2011 at 07:53 PM
I'm thinking if the system keeps raising the tuition to the point middle class kids can't attend, U.C. Davis won't need a police department or a Chancellor.
Ian Arnold November 27, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I'm not sure that the "jury is still out." In fact, I think the fact that the police illegally used excessive force in violation of the 4th amendment has been decided here: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/240/1185/564832/ In a nation that was built on protest, it's a shame that we're torturing our youth for having the courage of their convictions. I also note in passing that under the Chemical Weapons Convention (which was ratified by the US Congress in 1997) it would be illegal to have used pepperspray against armed enemy troops engaged in battle.
Greg Coppes November 27, 2011 at 11:55 PM
Justified or not I have an issue with the government spraying down a bunch of dumb kids sitting down in a non aggressive manor like they were a bunch bugs. I mean watch the video the office was being very nonchalant he wasn't in fear of those kids. It may have been different, if it was those standing and acting aggressively. I sure don't blame the officers, unless it turns out they acted independent of authority or policy. One things for sure the Chancellor has got to go
Aaron November 28, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Ian, Has the investigation into the force been completed? If so, please let me know who conducted it and what the result of the investigation was. Or, could it be that you and many others have come to the conclusion based strictly on what you have seen on Youtube? If I'm not mistaken, good decisions relative to people's careers and professional reputation are not made based on speculation. I know of the case law you cite. It's good law, however, it only partially applys to the case in Davis. That being said, I'm not willing to say with certainly that the force was justified. I'm willing to wait to see what an investigation uncovers! Greg, Would you feel better had the officer looked like he was in a panic? "Nonchalant" means the officer was in full control of his emotions. He thought out his plan and executed his plan. He may have made a bad decion, that's true. I'm willing to wait and see what comes out of an actual investigation. My "feelings" of what happened, or my observations of the few video I have seen are not nearly enough info to make an educated decision relative to the matter.
Greg Coppes November 28, 2011 at 07:07 PM
The video evidence supports that. Thats the point I was trying to make in my response to Ian. The way in which the officer was appling the pepper spray was not like an officer acting on his own or as an defensive measure, it was more like he was doing a task or following a procdure.
Irina November 28, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Okay, maybe a word from an insider would help in this discussion. Since I am on both UCD faculty and student list-serves, I can tell you without hesitation, that the order to disassemble came from the chancellor herself, hence the reason why UCD Faculty Association as well as several departments across campus and students called for Katehi’s resignation. I also believe that both e-mails sent to students and faculty have been posted on-line, so it is public knowledge now and people can make their own conclusions. The matter would have been different if the use of excessive force on peaceful protesters came from Davis cops (who were outraged at the UCD police actions as well); however, university police was acting per chancellor’s orders. Another fact, once the incident occurred, the chancellor sent another e-mail, not apologizing but rather stating that she has ordered an investigation into the matter that will be completed within 90 days (90 days!!!). The faculty as well as students were outraged, citing that she was trying to prolong the matter rather than address the issue. Two days later, she came out with a statement that the investigation will be completed and finalized within 30 days. Does it look like she was confused and trying to save her position as well as have ample time to create some type of a cover-up? Or was she addressing the issue? Mind you, over the weekend (after the incident) she was trying to do all she can to avoid students and faculty.
Irina November 28, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Also, for those who were there or saw the video prior to the incident, Pike was on the phone for over 10 minutes before spraying students. Now, another fact, this is not the first time UC Davis police used pepper-spray on students, a similar incident occurred on March 4, 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7FQOUyM5VQ That said, the alumni groups are fuming and a sizable group of us stopped our donations/cash flow to the university indefinitely. This matter is not about “a bunch of dumb kids” it affects our liberties and all of us…
Greg Coppes November 28, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Irina The video evidence supports your opinion. As I posted before the manner in which the officer applied the pepper spray was not as if he taking an defensive measure. It was as if he was following a procedure or doing a task. Those just sitting there did not pose an immediate threat. I do also agree if they can do this to those kids. They can do it to anyone. With that said once it became apparent they were going to be sprayed to sit there till they were, wasn't the most intelligent thing to do. Unless of course that was what their plan all along.
JimmyJohns November 28, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Help define protesting… or protesting peacefully, please. Is sitting on your butt, blocking a side walk so other students can not pass, peacefully protesting? If the police tell you to move from private property ( a college walkway or park) and you do not – what should they do? (Before the police sprayed the kids they tried to the separate the line but the students resisted) If you get pulled over tonight on the way home and the police office tells you to get out of the car and you do not – is that a protest or simple not following the directions of a police officer. How are the two scenarios different?
JimmyJohns November 28, 2011 at 10:15 PM
For those of us who have not seen the email to the students and faculity - can you post please? Can you also post the fact statement from the Davis police department about being "outraged" over the UCD campus police - that is a strange turn and I would like to see that statement.
Bil Paul November 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM
We can also look back in history for precedents. During the civil rights struggles in the South during the 1960s, there were laws mandating that African-Americans had to sit in the rear of public buses, African-Americans couldn't marry whites, they had to sit in separate areas in restaurants and had to use separate public restrooms. And of course attend separate schools. In order to overturn this state of affairs, some of these laws were deliberately broken or tested. Oftentimes cities demand permits to hold protests or protest marches; and sometimes this is only a device to prevent them. So oftentimes people just go ahead and hold their protests anyway. I think the term is civil disobedience. I think the worst instance of pepper spray being used in Calif. was in 1997 when protesters were holding a sit-down occupation of a lumber company office, and the police daubed strong liquid pepper directly into the protesters' eyes. That's torture.
Greg Coppes November 28, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Are you saying the students intended to be sprayed, to test the law that allows pepper spray to be used. Thats what your analogy implies.
Bil Paul November 29, 2011 at 04:06 AM
When I used the word "tested" I meant it in the sense of disobeying a law so that its legitimacy can eventually be tested in a high-level court. From everything I have read about the incident at UCD, the protesters weren't warned that they might be pepper-sprayed if they didn't move. So no, I don't think that students intended to be sprayed.
Aaron November 29, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Rest assured, to conduct an investigation into police misconduct, it will take more than 30 days. Since the Chancellor has no idea what is involved with an Internal Affairs investigation, she was talking out of ... well, sufice it to say she has no idea what she is talking about. The officers have certain rights per Govt Code 3300. The investigation process is detailed. It will take months to get the entire story. For those of you that think the protesters didn't need to be sprayed.... Do you think the officers should have tried to step over the circled, arms linked students as they escorted the arrested subjects? Should they have taken that chance that a circled protester might (or might not) grab the officer's leg as he did his job? Shouldn't the officer be able to ensure his / her own safety as they do their job? (There is more to the incident than what can be seen on Youtube. As for the Chancellor... I think the Chancellor's demonstration of total failure in leadership is cause enough for her resignation.
Ian Arnold November 29, 2011 at 04:43 AM
Given that the UC system has a system-wide policy on the use of force and that UC Davis has a General Order about the use of force, neither of which authorize any use of force except for "that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary, given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event, to effectively bring an incident under control." No reasonable person could possibly believe the use of the capsaicin was "necessary."
Aaron November 29, 2011 at 04:46 AM
Bil, Attached is a link to KFBK. You'll see the LT going down the line of protesters explaining that they will be subjected to force if they fail to follow the directives. http://www.kfbk.com/pages/news.html?feed=429008&article=9435007 That being said, just because a cop gives a directive that force will be used if they don't follow directives, doesn't automatically make the force reasonable. I'm more concerned about what else cops were doing as the students circled. If I am dealing with a suspect, or an arrestee, and I get circled by anything... dogs, iguanas, emus, or people, I want my partners to clear me a path to depart quickly and safely. I shouldn't have to step over someone as I escort an arrestee. That's all I need is a "peacefull protester" to grab my leg and pull me down. Two seconds later they (might) have my gun... and then what? The bottom line is the officers have an ability to safeguard themselves while they do their job. (I should also mention that the Chancellor doesn't have the ability to take my right to use force as I safeguard myself while I do my job.) The important issue is... We don't have all the facts yet. Let's all wait to see what comes from an investigation. Believe it or not, some IA investigations show that police do things wrong. It MAY be the case in this matter.
Greg Coppes November 29, 2011 at 04:48 AM
It was reported that they were warned. Even if they weren't, instead of getting out of the way as the officer slowly went down the line they just tried to cover their faces. Lets just say they weren't warned and they were so slow they couldn't get out of the way, and they were hiding their faces from the camera. What hideous law or injustice were they trying to test.
Ian Arnold November 29, 2011 at 04:49 AM
Failing to obey a lawful police order shouldn't automatically result in being assaulted with weaponry that is banned on the battlefield. "Put down the knife" is the kind of order that one disobeys at one's peril. "Stand up" isn't. What law was being violated here? Trespass? Blocking a public sidewalk? Were the students guilty of a misdemeanor or simply an infraction? Is it your position that failing to move your vehicle before the parking meter expires should result in a faceful of pepper spray? How about jaywalking? Spitting on the sidewalk? What's the minimum level of "crime" that should result in the use of an internationally-banned chemical weapon?
Ian Arnold November 29, 2011 at 05:40 AM
In related news, Egyptian authorities refused to accept shipment of 21 tons of pepper spray from the US, fearing that the chemical agent might be used against peaceful protesters: http://bikyamasr.com/49799/egypt-import-tear-gas-from-us/
Dane Besneatte November 29, 2011 at 06:08 AM
It is beyond belief that anyone would try to justify the conduct of the police here. There is no justification for their actions and the disingenuous claims of police authority, fear for their safety etc., show just how dispicable the conduct really was. The chancellor did severely punish those responsible...by putting them on PAID ADMIN LEAVE...OUCH! The exercise of freedom to engage in peaceful protest is one of the hallmarks of what this country stands for not the other way around. This is a shameful display of an abuse of authority& suggesting obeydiance is simply un-American. When police violate the law with impunity and any measure of approval it is the first step to anarchy. Maybe it was the Chancellor's almost 1/2 million dollar salarybeing on the line that she quickly changed her position. I think this conduct is not only disgusting but criminal as well. Like having the ex LA county sheriff do an investigation will get to the bottom of anything. You can expect nothing from this investigation other than some mindless idiotic justification for the actions of the jack booted gendarmes and at what cost to the university? I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for justice but would if i were peacefully protesting government abuses at UCD. In a word: SHAMEFUL!
Ian Arnold November 29, 2011 at 08:53 AM
@Aaron: Why are you so sure it would take more than 30 days to conduct an IA? In the City of Chico, for example, an IA must be completed and a written report provided to the officer under investigation not later than the 45th day.
Aaron November 29, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Ian, Yep, they take a while. An industry standard for a normal (law enforcement) IA investigation is three to four months. The law requires the case to be completed and any discipline issued in 12 months. A case as complex as the one in question will take a long time to get right due to the number of potential witnesses.
Aaron November 29, 2011 at 03:29 PM
There's the flaw in your argument... The standard for "reasonable-ness" for the police use of force is NOT that of the "reasonable person" as you suggest, it's the belief of a "reasonable, properly trained police officer put in the same conditions". As for the "Egyptian" news... it doesn't apply either. American law is what we follow.
Irina November 29, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Dane, I completely agree… Chancellor’s salary for 2010 (total compensation): $382,249.32 She has also received $100, 000 in relocation funds, which will be suspended if she leaves within four years from her hiring date (her probationary period has not yet ended). Also, important to note: What makes a word-class university (R1) institution is the faculty NOT the chancellor. Administrators are expendable, world-class researchers are not… When a Faculty Association calls for a resignation of a certain administrator, that administrator is done… whether she stays or goes… so the jury has ruled and the case has been decided…
JimmyJohns November 29, 2011 at 07:59 PM
If any of those kids is a PR major, Poly Sci or Communications major – then YES I THINK THEY PUSHED THIS IN THE HOPES OF GETTING OVER ZEALOUS RETALATION AND CAPTURIMNG THAT ON AN iPHONE – ABSOLUTELY. You are naive if do not think so. (As some who has protested with GreenPeace – I can tell you organized protested like camers)
Greg Coppes November 29, 2011 at 08:17 PM
First let me say there isn't anyway to justify hosing down those kids with pepper spray. It's just a matter of determining who is responsable. However it shakes out, it appears no matter which side you are on we all agree the Chanclor has got to go
Irina November 29, 2011 at 10:14 PM
UC Davis Physicists to Chancellor Katehi: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/11/22/uc-davis-physicists-to-chancellor-katehi/ Open Letter to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi by Professor Brown: http://bicyclebarricade.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/open-letter-to-chancellor-linda-p-b-katehi/ UC Davis English Department calls for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation: http://english.ucdavis.edu/ UC Davis Faculty Association calls for Katehi’s resignation: http://ucdfa.org/2011/11/19/dfa-board-calls-for-katehis-resignation/


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