Report on College Protest Crackdown Urges Changes for Police

Sunday, 06 May 2012 09:15 By Doug Oakley, McClatchy Newspapers | Report
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The report was prepared in the aftermath of protests in November at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis. Both protests drew criticism of police actions: jabbing protesters with batons at Berkeley and using pepper spray on passive protesters at Davis.

UC President Mark Yudof in November said he was "appalled" at those actions and vowed to protect the rights of student and staff.

Among the recommendations emphasized in the report by authors UC-Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley and UC General Counsel Charles Robinson during a news conference were:

-Chancellors should be directly involved with police during demonstrations.

-Campus police should rely on officers from other campuses instead of calling in support from outside law enforcement agencies.

Using pepper spray on protesters at campuses is still up for debate. But the report says it is not clear if pepper spray is more harmful than batons and Tasers and offers no recommendation on its use.

One earlier report criticized the use of pepper spray at Davis, but another suggested it would have been useful at the Berkeley protest.

Free speech should be the primary focus of police and administrators at places like Berkeley and Davis, the lawyers reported. The mind-set "that has been focused primarily on the maintenance of order and adherence to rules and regulations" must change, Edley said.

"I have had conversations with my students who were struck by batons and stopped by police and pressed to produce ID and explain themselves, and it makes them feel shaky and uncomfortable," Edley said. "Those kinds of occurrences have to be minimized."

One way to do that is have chancellors at campuses more involved with police.

"Imagine a situation in which a chancellor says you can't let them occupy the building, but then they start to move toward the building," Edley said. "If the civilian leadership is nowhere to be found, the police are going to do what they have to do."

Using police from nearby cities to control protesters is "one of the thorniest and most challenging questions," he said.

"It's a difficult issue because even though they are under command of UC police, they are under supervision of their local agency," Edley said. "We think it's important to resort to other campus police before" going outside.

Police and administrators should also use common sense, Edley said.

"If you know you have to clear a building and it's Friday, do we have to do it now?" he said. "It's one thing if they are damaging personal files; it's another if they are sitting there having pizza."

Among the report's other main recommendations are:

-Establishing what "less-than-lethal" weapons, such as tear gas and batons, campus police may use and making that list public,

-Requiring campus police to use "pain compliance" techniques before using force,

-Training police and administrators in crowd management, mediation and de-escalation techniques.

(Andrew McGall of the Oakland Tribune contributed to this report.)

© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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Doug Oakley

Doug Oakley is a reporter for McClatchy Newspapers.

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