Courtesy of DAILYCAL.ORG

In response to the 2011-2012 systemwide campus protests, University of California President Mark Yudof asked UC Vice President and General Counsel Charles Robinson and Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. for a finalized review of UC policies to demonstrations and protests. The collaborative analysis sought to improve, as well as clarify UC police and campus regulation in preventing violent clashes like those at UC Davis and UC Berkeley. The authors recommended opening greater channels of communication when facilitating means of protest between police, administrators and demonstrators. Published on Sept. 13, the formal report looks into the most effective methods to adopting new practices and policies for future protests.

“We respect and value the long history of civil disobedience in our University. At the same time, in crafting these guidelines we believe that administrators must also be mindful of their obligations to the greater University community,” stated Robinson and Edley in reference to protecting the academic mission of each UC campus.

After the Nov. 11 UC Davis pepper-spray incident, Robinson and Edley spent more than six months reviewing existing University policy on free speech, demonstrations and use of force by police. On May 4, they released a draft report with 50 proposed recommendations and received 84 different comments from the UC community on how to improve upon their recommendations. The finalized form was revised based on the comments received.

“The goal of this Report is to identify practices that will facilitate such expression and encourage lawful protest activity—while also protecting the health and safety of our students, staff, police and the general public when protesters choose to violate laws and regulations,” according to the Response to Protests on UC Campuses report.

At the request of community members, the authors specified recommendations for the use of pepper spray against protest in the form of arm-linking. Recommendations involve no use of force by police officials unless protesters are interfering with the academic mission of the campus. If necessary, a hands-on pain compliance technique is a recommended alternative rather than the use of batons or pepper spray. Due to potential health risk from pepper spraying, police are cautioned when resorting to that option. Creating a police video record was also recommended to further develop an accurate, fair and complete record of the events only to be used for evidentiary and training purposes.

In a letter to President Yudof, Edley and Robinson specifically recommend that the Board of Regents create more opportunities for public discussion outside of the mere public forum. Utilizing professionally-staffed social media accounts was suggested as an outlet of communication for both police and administrators in reaching a broader audience about protest issues and creating greater awareness. Administrators and police officers have also expressed the difficulty in communicating to “leaderless” protesters, as was often the case in the recent Occupy movements.

Along with other revisions, the addition of the “Preliminary Statement on Scope” page ultimately defined civil disobedience in protest as an activity that violates laws or campus regulations. The threshold of civil disobedience versus a peaceful demonstration borders freedom of expression and public endangerment or destruction of property. The writers identified this as one of the hardest things to define, but also emphasized that civil disobedience in the future, both large and small in scale will be dealt with in a much more organized and better-suited manner.

Final revisions elaborated on having written policies between police and administration in the event of civil disobedience. They recommended that a stand-in response team with pre-defined and well-outlined roles and responsibilities be of the utmost importance. Other recommendations include increased officer training in areas of crowd management and mediation, obtaining input from campus community when it comes to the hiring of new campus officers and the conduction of simulations with campus administrators and police to rehearse a response to civil disobedience.

Authors relay that implementation of these recommendations is also contingent upon greater economic support for law officials. “The compensation of UC police officers directly affects the ability of our Departments to recruit and retain well-qualified officers,” stated the authors.

After the creation and release of this report, Lynn Tierney, associate vice president for communications in the UC Office of the President, was appointed for one year to coordinate the activity that will subsequently follow the publishing of this report. She will help review of after-action reports with the campus officials as well as to establish a structure for discretionary review of campus responses to protests as per only a couple of the 49 recommendations of the report.