On May 4, University of California officials released a draft report addressing the need for more effective lines of communication between police and administrators in response to campus protests. The new report recommends that campus police use forms of mediation when working towards alleviating student protests; however, pepper spray and other forms of force remained as viable options in the case that protests pose a threat to officers or students.
The use of pepper spray during protests is examined within the study but not banned because “without information on [national] comparative safety, we think it would be imprudent for us to offer any conclusive recommendations on whether UC police officers should continue to carry pepper spray,” stated the report, written by General Counsel Charles F. Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher F. Edley Jr. In a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, Edley stated, “I’m totally confident that if our recommendations had been in place, the mistakes that were made in November wouldn’t have been made.”
The report, written in response to the use of police force on the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses last year, stated that “unless the protesters were significantly interfering with the academic mission of the campus,” administrators should not respond with any physical force. Even in instances where force is required, the report recommends campus police “utilize hands-on pain compliance techniques” before using pepper spray or batons.
The report’s release was published within a month of the UC Davis task force report, although the latter was specifically focused on investigating the pepper spray incident at UC Davis last November. UC President Mark G. Yudof originally called for the creation of Robinson and Edley’s report in order to obtain a system-wide evaluation that would be relevant to every UC campus. The report cost approximately $300,000 due to legal fees, expert consultations and other factors.
The 158-page “Response to Protests on UC Campuses” report provides 50 recommendations on a variety of topics. Many recommendations of the Edley-Robinson report focus on avoiding conflicts in personal and group settings; keeping an open line of communication with activists, videotaping protests, reducing police presence at peaceful rallies and guaranteeing that campus administrators have the final say on the use of force were among the most prominent suggestions. The study also recommends that outside police forces should not be called onto UC campuses unless extraordinary conditions are present.
Over the past several months, Edley and Robinson visited several UC campuses and attended public forums with students, faculty and staff in order to gather information for their study. ASUCR Vice President of External Affairs-Elect Lazaro Cardenas attended two of those meetings in January. He believes that the report identifies serious issues within the network of handling protest demonstrations. However, Cardenas noted that “the report does not resolve any of the issues students protested against. This is a step in a good direction only because of the discourse in which students were involved.”
“This report highlights the responsibility, shared by all members of the university community, to ensure that the rights of free speech are respected–in fact honored–and that peaceful, lawful protests exist on our campuses,” stated Robinson in a UC Newsroom article. “At the same time, it is important to recognize the role that civil disobedience may play in such demonstrations, and the attendant consequences.”
The draft is open for public comment for three weeks before the creation of a final report that will be reviewed by the UC Board of Regents.