New UC Report Offers Tips to Avoid Pepper Spray 'Mistakes'

Authors explain how their suggestions could help UC system protect free speech and protect its students.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The UC Davis pepper spraying incident was captured on cell phone video and went viral on YouTube.

    The authors behind a new University of California report suggesting guidelines campuses should follow when disbanding protests say if their policies had been in place the mistakes of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis would not have happened.

    Friday UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and Boalt School of Law Dean Christopher Edley released a lengthy set of suggested guidelines that outlines how UC schools should respond to protests.

    The two authors of the report were quick to point out Friday that while they believe their new suggested guidelines would have helped avoid some of the mistakes that occurred last November, when UC Davis police used pepper spray on student protesters, some mistakes are bound to happen.

    "I feel totally confident that had our recommendations been in place that those mistakes that were made in November would not have happened," Edley said. "But the research is clear from Professor Yogi Berra: People are only human so there will be mistakes."

    The report was the third one that that the UC system has released since the handling of the November protest at Davis made international headlines.

    But the latest set of guidelines is not directly in response to what happened at Davis. Instead the authors said they looked at multiple incidents out of the hundreds that occur at UC campuses, including the occupation of Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley, every year and in cities across the world.

    "They are global issues, ones that municipalities and cities are dealing with across the world" Robinson said.

    The authors spent about $300,000 conducting interviews and research to develop the guidelines contained in the report.

    UC President Mark Yudoff will study the suggestions and determine whether he wants to adopt any.

    Yudoff echoed the findings of a previous report last month that found the use of pepper spray was excessive in the UC Davis incident.

    He said at the time he wanted to develop new policies that would prevent incidents like that from happening again.

    The authors of the report said while the UC Regents will be advised on any policy changes, there are no suggestions that would need to be formally ratified by them.

    The report examines how campus police should respond to acts of civil disobedience on campuses and when it is acceptable to use different levels of force for the greater public good.

    The authors examined several hypothetical scenarios where, for example, using pepper spray may be a preferred method to breaking up a demonstration than through physical force.