Lack of Clear Policies May Have Led to Student Pepper Spraying Incident


A lack of clearly defined police procedures may have led to the pepper-spraying of several student protestors at UC Davis which sparked outrage across the nation, according to a California State Senator.

"I think what we learned is that there were very vague polices," State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach)

The incident, which was captured on video and posted to YouTube, sparked national outrage for the police's use of force in the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters during a campus demonstration over higher tuition costs on November 18.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi set up an internal investigation of the incident. Two campus officers seen in the video using the pepper spray were suspended and the campus police chief was placed on paid administrative leave.

Lowenthal said it’s a difficult balancing act trying to protect free speech and the right to assembly while at the same time protecting the safety of officers and the university.

"You have to balance police safety issues with the ability of students. I think what happened at UC Davis was policies and procedures ---and throughout the UC system—were not clear in terms of what the role of the police was. When they should be accountable, is there is system wide, clearly defined procedure—and there aren't."

Katehi said last Wednesday that she never ordered campus police to use force or pepper spray on students last month, as lawmakers began a broader inquiry over of how colleges have responded to non-violent Occupy protests.

Katehi said that she played no direct role in officers pepper-spraying students. She accepted responsibility for what happened but said she would feel uncomfortable providing tactical orders to police.

As to whether the police chief should be fired over the incident, Lowenthal said the facts will determine the next steps.

"I think that once we get the results of the investigation, if that's what it indicates, then it should be. We're not the investigatory body," Lowenthal said. "Let's hear from the expects in terms of what really happened."

This year, University of California tuition for in-state undergrads and graduate students rose $1,890 to $12,192 a year, which doesn't include room, board and roughly $1,000 in campus fees. That's 18 percent more than they paid last year and more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Tuition at California State University has risen more than 22 percent to $5,472, not including room, board or campus fees. In November, the CSU Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition by another 9 percent, or $498, to $5,970 for next year.

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