UC Can Release Most of Pepper Spray Report: Judge

There was a temporary restraining order which blocked UC from releasing the report on March 6.

By Jeff Shuttleworth
|  Friday, Mar 16, 2012  |  Updated 7:34 PM PDT
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Most of UC Pepper Spray Report Can be Released

During an Occupy protest on Nov. 18, UC Davis campus police officers doused sitting protesters with pepper spray. The video went viral.

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An Oakland judge said today that the University of California can release most but not all of a long-awaited report on the pepper-spraying of protesters at UC Davis by campus police officers in November (video below).

The Federated University Police Officers Association, which represents officers at UC Davis and other UC campuses, filed suit to try to stop a task force headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso from releasing its findings to the UC Davis community.

The 12-member task force was created to investigate an incident at an Occupy protest Nov. 18 in which campus police officers doused pepper spray on sitting protesters who had set up an encampment on the Davis campus.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo issued a temporary restraining order on March 6 which blocked UC from releasing the report at that time.

In a mixed ruling today, Grillo denied the police union's request for a preliminary injunction for most of the task force's report but he granted a preliminary injunction for parts of a fact-finding report by Kroll Associates, a security firm hired by UC Davis to investigate the incident.

Grillo directed lawyers for the police union and for UC, which is headquartered in Oakland, to meet and confer to try to reach an agreement on which parts of the Kroll report can be made public and which parts should remain confidential. He will have another hearing on the matter on March 28 to see if an agreement has been reached by then.

Both sides claimed victory after today's hearing.

Police union attorney John Bakhit said, "We accomplished our goal today. We never wanted to ban the entire report from being released but the judge is blocking the reports we had concerns about."

Bakhit said the union doesn't want UC Davis to release the names or confidential information that officers gave to the investigators who compiled the Kroll report.

He said that before the next hearing lawyers for the two sides will "attempt to come to an understanding on the portions of the report that can be redacted without sacrificing the officers' privacy rights."

UC General Counsel Charles Robinson said, "We are making progress and we hope that ultimately we will be able to release the full report to the public."

Robinson said he will consult with Reynoso and UC Davis officials before UC decides to release the approved sections of the report now or wait to see if and when the entire report can be released.

"It may or may not make sense to release the report in piecemeal fashion," he said.

Robinson said releasing only part of the report "might be misleading or provide insufficient context" for a full understanding of the investigation.

Bakhit said one of the union's biggest concerns is the safety of the officers who are being investigated.

He said Lt. John Pike, the incident commander whose pepper-spraying of students was shown on national television and posted on the Internet, has received threats and has been getting 10,000 text messages and emails a week from people who are upset with his actions.

Bakhit said that while Pike's name is already in the public domain, the names of other officers under investigation "absolutely should be withheld."

But Michael Risher, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is joining UC in opposing the effort to block the report's release, said, "The names must be released," saying he hasn't seen any credible and specific evidence that other UC Davis police officers would be subjected to threats if their names were made public.

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