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PD Editorial: Bottling up pepper spray report at UC

  • FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2011 file photo, University of California, Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters while blocking their exit from the school's quad in Davis, Calif. The task force investigating the incident was scheduled to release its findings and recommendations Tuesday March 6, 2012. But it decided to delay the move Monday after learning the officers' union plans to seek a court order to halt the report's public disclosure. (AP Photo/The Davis Enterprise, Wayne Tilcock, File)

It's a defining image of the Occupy movement: A UC Davis police officer in riot gear pepper-spraying a row of seated protesters.

In the aftermath, we asked, "What in the world was the purpose of directly spraying students who were seated and clearly committed to nonviolence?" Countless others asked the same question.

Today, a judge in Oakland may decide whether we get an answer.

Pepper Spray Used On Occupy Protesters

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A task force that investigated the Nov. 18 incident has delivered its report to UC officials, who planned to make it public.

However, lawyers for the officers obtained a court order to keep the report secret. They want the officers' names and other details gleaned by the task force withheld. The officers' privacy and reputations are at stake, according to the Federated University Police Officers Association.

So is public confidence in the University of California, and whitewashing the investigation isn't going to help.

The public has a strong interest in the findings of the task force. This incident occurred on the campus of a public institution, it involved students who were peacefully protesting rising college costs, and there are allegations of excessive force by university police.

Moreover, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said campus police defied her orders regarding the use of force. Finally, taxpayers could be held liable for damages in a lawsuit filed by the demonstrators.

"Chancellor Katehi and the UC Davis campus community have a strong interest in moving forward with any changes necessary to ensure that all possible steps are taken to avoid any future events such as the one that occurred on the afternoon of Nov. 18," UC attorneys argued in court papers.

However, there's no way for the public to know if those changes have been made unless the university explains how the incident happened in the first place.


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