Law enforcement calls on Calif. AG to investigate UC Davis pepper spray incident

AP Photo/The Enterprise, Wayne Tilcock

In this Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, photo University of California, Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters while blocking their exit from the school's quad Friday in Davis, Calif. Two University of California, Davis police officers involved in pepper spraying seated protesters were placed on administrative leave Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, as the chancellor of the school accelerates the investigation into the incident.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department are calling on the California attorney general to investigate police use of pepper spray on peaceful protesters at UC Davis, officials said today.

In a letter sent to California Attorney General Kamala Harris Tuesday, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff W. Reisig and Sheriff Ed Prieto wrote:

“After conducting a brief review of the issues surrounding the November 18, 2011, events on the campus of the University of California at Davis it is our conclusion that this is an incident that mandates the involvement of the Office of the Attorney General at the earliest of stages.”

The officials wrote that while they do not lack resources or have a conflict of interest, which are typically reasons why the Attorney General's Office is asked to investigate by a local agency, the officials state they may not be able to conduct a quick enough review for the public given their resources and that their findings may be questioned because of perceived or possible legal conflicts that may arise.

“These events are not traditional in nature and call for an examination of events that have statewide ramifications. In the absence of such action it is our belief that the public’s confidence in the conclusions reached may be significantly undermined.”

The officials wrote that though the investigation is about events at a single UC campus, the results would impact all 10 UC campuses.

”In light of the significant and statewide issues involved in these events we join in asking you to bring the full resources of the State of California to bear on these events so that the public will have full confidence in the outcome.”

Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the state's Attorney General's Office, said the office is reviewing the request, but cannot comment further.

California Attorney General Harris watched the video of police pepper spraying protesters at UC Davis when news broke last month and was "deeply disturbed" by it, Gledhill said at the time.

People called on the state attorney general to investigate the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters by campus police last month, but Gledhill said local agencies typically handle such investigations and the Attorney General's Office rarely steps in unless asked. Usually local agencies ask for the state to step in because of issues regarding resources or conflicts of interest, Gledhill said.

After a week of rallies at UC Davis last month, University Chancellor Linda Katehi ordered the removal of 25 tents on campus Nov. 18 because of concerns about student safety and health and because university policy prohibits overnight camping, she wrote in a letter to the UC Davis community.

Officers were videoed spraying peacefully seated protesters, in some cases using pepper spray directly in their faces. The videos of the incident went viral online.

Tami Abdollah can be reached at and

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