Thomas K. Fowler/AP
In this image made from video, a police officer uses pepper spray as he walks down a line of Occupy demonstrators sitting on the ground at the University of California, Davis on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011.
After a group of peaceful student protesters were sprayed with pepper spray by two UC Davis campus police officers, the university police department is being criticized and investigated for allegedly using unnecessary force and impeding free speech.
Video footage of the two officers spraying peacefully seated students has been spreading on the internet. After the incident, eleven protesters were treated on site and two were taken to a hospital. Initially, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi did not criticize the campus police actions; however, after the controversy gained public attention, she swiftly announced the immediate formation of a task force consisting of faculty, students, and staff to conduct a review of the incident. Katehi has since placed UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, along with the two officers who sprayed the pepper-spray, on paid administrative leave.
UC President Mark G. Yudof said he was “appalled” by the incident and promised an urgent review of the use of force and security practices across all ten U.C. campuses. This critical review of campus police practices also comes after police at UC Berkeley used batons on protesters. “Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and nonviolent protest has long been central to our history,” Yudof said. He added, “It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.”
Do you think the UC Davis Campus Police crossed a line by spraying peaceful protesters with pepper-spray? What alternative course of action could the officers have taken? Should high-level administrators be held accountable for the controversial behavior of university employees?
Amy Martin, senator, Associated Students U.C. Davis (ASUCD), 3rd year student at U.C. Davis
Joe Domanick, associate director of the Center on the Media, Crime & Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York
Kevin Johnson, dean, U.C. Davis School of Law