Court order postpones release of UC Davis task force report

The Alameda Superior Court has permitted a restraining order which will temporarily suspend the release of the UC Davis task force report regarding the Nov. 18 pepper-spray incident. The request came from the attorneys who represent the UC campus police union, on the grounds that the report is an infringement of police privacy laws. After continuous delay of the report, legal disputes have been raised over the degree of protection to which law officials are allowed from public scrutiny. A court hearing on March 16  will determine whether the temporary restraining order will be removed or whether a permanent injunction will be granted in its place. The purpose of the UC Davis task force in creating an outline was to promote transparency and determine the legality of the police response who pepper-sprayed numerous non-violent protesters who had been ordered to disperse.
“We are obviously disappointed that public disclosure of the findings and recommendations of the task force chaired by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso has been delayed. The work of the task force represents a crucial step forward for the UC Davis campus as it attempts to move beyond the events of Friday, Nov. 18,” stated UC General Counsel Charles Robinson in a press release.The UC General Counsel had unsuccessfully tried to counter the court order on March 5.
John Bakhit, the attorney who represents the UC campus police union, argues that the report is in violation of the California Penal Code which enacts privacy protections for law enforcement in criminal or civil proceedings. “Our concern is not just the names, but rather any types of conclusions related to discipline or allegations of misconduct that would be released to the public; that would be a violation of state law,” stated Bakhit, who then suggested that the officers’ privacy rights had already been compromised. “These officers were compelled to speak to these ‘quote’ investigators and that in and of itself gives [the investigators] access to confidential information,” concluded Bakhit.In the aftermath of the pepper-spray incident, the development of the UC Davis task force was requested by UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and established by UC President Mark Yudof. The task force had been responsible for the analysis of the pepper-spraying incident, as well as making recommendations for improvements in police procedures when handling campus demonstrations. Due to the court ruling, which has barred the release of the task force report, attorneys of the police union were also given access to the report, in order to protect the privacy laws of the accused policemen.

“I was very frustrated to receive the news today,” stated Reynoso in a press release. “However, let me assure you that I am undeterred in my commitment to release the complete and unredacted work of the task force, a view shared by President Yudof.” Multiple delays in the release of the report have raised numerous concerns over the public availability of the findings, which President Yudof also addressed in his letter. “The entire UC Davis community deserves a fully transparent and unexpurgated accounting of the incidents in question. Though I have not seen the reports, I am told the task force and its supporting investigators have provided just such an accounting,” stated Yudof.  UC Davis Chancellor Katehi indicated that  UC Davis is making progress on its own internal affairs investigation into complaints of officer misconduct.
“I expect for the report to validate the course of action taken by administration and police in the incident,” remarked James Phillips, a second-year philosophy major at UC Riverside, who felt skeptical of the task force’s alleged non-biased position. “Nothing will come from the investigation other than the implementation of new tactics for the police; they will ‘humanize’ their tactics so they can be perceived as holding the moral high ground when blatantly destroying students constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.”The 19 UC Davis student protesters who were involved in the Nov. 18 pepper-spray incident have taken a federal civil lawsuit against the UC Davis campus police, Chancellor Katehi and other administrators. The students, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, believe that their civil liberties were violated at the time of the protest.

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