Report: UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident 'Should And Could Have Been Prevented'

No doubt you all remember the shocking pepper spray attack on peaceful student protesters at UC Davis last November. Today the report into that incident has been released and the results are damning, accusing the Chancellor of poor leadership and concluding that the use of pepper spray was unjustified and should have been prevented. The laissez-faire attitude of the UC Davis police chief is especially appalling.


The report spreads blame for the events that led to the confrontation across several members of the UC-Davis leadership but said Pike was primarily responsible for the "objectively unreasonable decision" to pepper-spray the demonstrators.

"On balance, the evidence does not provide an objective, factual basis for Lt. Pike's purported belief that he was trapped, that any of his officers were trapped, or that the safety of their arrestees was at issue," the report states. "Further, there is little evidence that any protesters attempted to use violence against the police."

But while criticizing Pike, the report also cites "systemic and repeated failures" among campus administrators it said "put officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves."

The type of pepper-spray canister he carried was "not an authorized weapon" under campus police guidelines, and the officers "were not trained in how to use it correctly," according to the report.

Chancellor Linda Katehi told investigators that she envisioned "a limited operation in which police would demand that the tents be taken down but would use no other force," the report found.

However other top-level officials did not receive that message because the chancellor "did not effectively communicate this" during deliberations.

According to the report Chief Spicuzza initially tried to convince officers not to wear riot gear or use batons or pepper spray, but she was unsuccessful.

It also found "There is also evidence that she wanted her officers to withdraw if they encountered resistance," but as investigators weren't allowed to interview her they had no further details.

No one in the campus leadership took responsibility for ensuring they understood the way the police operation was to be handled, the report stated.

"The command and leadership structure of the (campus police) is very dysfunctional," the report adds. "Lieutenants refused to follow directives of the chief."

This conclusion stemmed in part from "heated exchanges" between Spicuzza and those in her charge had regarding how to proceed with the operation and her eventual "concession that her officers will do things their own way and there is nothing she can do about it."[Emphasis mine.] What was this, "mob rule" of the campus police? Spicuzza may as well have given the investigative team their interview and replied with a "Meh" to every question.

The report also takes on the claims by campus police that the video footage of the pepper-spraying incident shows that they were under threat and facing a "hostile crowd." It blasts those claims out of the water with video images of Pike and another officer who "were able to move through the crowd freely" and stepped over seated protesters three times "just minutes before Lt. Pike sprayed those same protesters."

The report contains recommendations to about how to improve communication and the police force, and how to better respect freedom of speech issues as well as various aspects of life on a university campus.

There were no recommendations regarding disciplinary actions.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.