UC Davis Report Released, Condemns Pepper Spray Incident

UC Davis’s long-awaited task force report over the infamous pepper spraying event has finally been made public. While many expected the document to be non-committal in its stance, the task force’s report stated in no unambiguous terms that various authorities at UC Davis repeatedly exercised poor judgment. Although the document is 190 pages, the report summarizes itself with this statement: “Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented.”

Among its findings, the report stated that the committee saw little evidence that the students were resorting to violence or had trapped police as the campus officers had claimed. Furthermore, though the task force doubts that pepper spray needed to be utilized at all, it condemns Lt. John Pike for firing it at point blank range when protocol is for it to be sprayed at least six feet away from an individual.

One of the UC Davis students who was pepper sprayed, Fatima Sbeih, was surprised by the report. “My heart stopped. I was like, oh my God, they actually admitted it.”

In the report, Chancellor Linda Katehi also received criticism for her communication with the campus police. Many have called for Katehi’s resignation, but UC system President Mark Yudof would like Katehi to keep her job and help the campus community through the healing process. Following the report’s release, Katehi thanked the task force for its work and vowed to “ensure that students’ safety and free-speech rights are paramount.”

While John Bakhit, an attorney for the campus police union, agrees with the parts of the report that condemn Chancellor Katehi’s role in the incident, he defends the officer’s decision to use pepper spray, insisting that the unruly mob that had formed around the police necessitated this action. It is still not clear, however, why the police used the force against the sitting students rather than the supposedly threatening students who had encircled the scene.

Aside from Lt. Pike and Chief Annette Spicuzza, whose names are so well known after the incident that there was no use in censoring them, the public version of the report eliminated other officers’ names to prevent further backlash against the police force.

All charges against protestors arrested on that day have since been dropped. Nonetheless, nearly 20 students who were either arrested or pepper sprayed have filed a lawsuit asserting that their First Amendment rights were disregarded.

Though 190 pages is a lot to sift through, one need not look further than the table of contents to see a clear summary of what the task force concludes went wrong that day:

Deficiencies in the Decision-Making Process and Substantive Mistakes at the Administrative Level

  • There Was a Failure to Investigate Whether or Not “Non-Affiliates” in the UC Davis Occupy Encampment Were Present
  • The Administration Decided to Deploy Police to Remove the Tents on Nov. 18 before Considering Other Reasonable Alternatives
  • The Scope of the Police Operation to Remove the Tents Was Ineffectively Communicated, Not Clearly Understood by key Decision-Makers, and, Accordingly, Could Not Be Adequately Evaluated as to Its Cost and Consequences
  • There Were No Clear Lines Delineating the Responsibility for Decision-Making between Civilian Administrators and Police
  • There Was Confusion as to the Legal Basis for the Police Operation
  • The Leadership Teams’ Informal Consensus-Based Decision-Making Process Was Ineffective for Supporting a Major Extraordinary Event

The Conduct of the Police Operation

  • The UCDPD Failed to Plan for the Intended Action According to Standard Operating Procedures
  • Notwithstanding the Deficiencies in the Operations Plan, the Incident Was Not Managed According to Plan
  • The Decision to Use Pepper Spray Was Not Supported by Objective Evidence and Was Not Authorized by Policy
  • The Pepper Spray Used, the MK-9, First Aerosol Projector, Was Not an Authorized Weapon for Use by the UCDPD
  • There Is a Breakdown of Leadership in the UCDPD
  • Other Police Procedural and Tactical Irregularities

Individual Responsibility

  • The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Decision to Deploy the Police at 3 p.m. Rather than During the Night or Early Morning, Which Is a Tactical Decision Properly Reserved for Police Authorities
  • The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Failure to Communicate Her Position that the Police Operation Should Avoid Physical Force
  • Many Members of the Leadership Team, Including, the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor Meyer, and Vice Chancellor Wood, Share Responsibility for the Decision to Remove the Tents on Friday and, as a Result, the Subsequent Police Action Against Protesters
  • Chief Spicuzza Bears Individual Responsibility for Failing to Challenge the Leadership Team’s Decision on the Time of the Police Operation and for Not Clarifying the Role the Police Were Expected to Play During the Operation. She Is also Responsible for Numerous Deviations from Best Police Practices Before and During the Operation as Detailed in the Kroll Report
  • Officer “P” Bears Individual Responsibility for Abdicating his Duties as Incident Commander
  • Lt. Pike Bears Primary Responsibility for the Objectively Unreasonable Decision to Use Pepper Spray on the Students Sitting in a Line and for the Manner in Which the Pepper Spray Was Used

Related Stories:

UC Davis English Department Demands Disbanding of Campus Police

Occupy UC Davis Pepper Spray Victim Speaks Out [Video]

Students Shame UC Davis Chancellor With Silent Protest [Video]

AP Photo/The Enterprise, Wayne Tilcock, File


Christine Stewart

There are still some people who claim the students deserved to be pepper sprayed for not following police orders. I say, fine, arrest them if you need to- but they were peacefully protesting, and there was no need to pepper spray them.

Steven J.
Steven J5 years ago

Thank you for the story. This certainly needs to be discussed, rather than postponed indefinitely like the initial report.

Speaking as a Davis student, I also wanted to call attention to another dumb policy that has somehow managed to spread through many of our colleges:


If your against the current standard of grading, as mentioned in this petition, please sign this and email it to everyone you know so they can sign it and spread the word to the people they know as well. Thank you to all who sign and support.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

At least some justice is being done in the world. I'm sure the people who were attacked want all the officers to be punished, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

Gloria H.
Gloria H5 years ago

It's like hearing a surgeon saying "oops". You bet the other cops are happy their names were not mentioned. They were only following orders standing by when Pike did the deed. Not one had the balls to question what he was about to do. I wouldn't hire them to watch my cat box.

Marie M.
Marie M5 years ago


Vivianne Mosca-Clark

I hope more cities stop their police for harming anyone demonstrating.
Government needs to stop making decisions that are against the Constitution. Locally or federally.

mike rollo
mike rollo5 years ago

Those rent a cops only admitted it cause they don't have a choice.The whole freakin country saw that SS officer spraying those kids peacefully prtesting at point blank range!! They can't deny it. Thats like the GOP claiming they aren't starting a war on women.Everybody is so full of shit i can't even take it anymore!!!

Apollo Environmental Arti

So where do the high school Bullies go for employment? Somewhere they can continue to bully!

This was a case of Assault with a deadly weapon. The perp with the badge is aiming for the student's eyes with the intention of causing bodily harm and with an unauthorized weapon. From just looking at the picture you can tell he loves his work. Just like the jerk that pepper sprayed the 80 year lady at OWS!

Their oath: to protect and serve the public
Their actions: bully and oppression of the public. Assault the people they have pledged to protect.

Not saying that all officers are this way, I have friends in Law Enforcement that care deeply about their communities and their fellow man. They are Heros.

We do need to do a better job of screening before handing someone a Badge, a BULLY club, a can of Poison and a GUN.

My Idiot uncle who was a Bully Cop once said "See this badge, it means I can do what ever I want"

Erika M.
Erika M5 years ago

I'm glad they admitted their wrongdoing, its a step in the right direction.

Mark M.
Mark M5 years ago

A bureaucratic reply. And months late. Anyone with eyes and a sensible mind would conclude in ten minutes that the pepper spray was wholly unjustified. So they think that this is a reasonable report? Well, it admits culpability and that mistakes were made in judgment and execution. I think the police behavior really demonstrated an utter failure of character, that it expressed a warped and perverted sense of entitlement to power and a compulsion to control, by aggressive and even sadistic means if necessary. That's a lot different than "mistakes were made". How about an admission that the police had among them several angry or lowly characters, and that the badge, gun, uniform and pepper spray seemed to turn otherwise likable people into monsters? That is what happened this day. ONLY if the students had been damaging or explicitly threatening to damage property or riot and cause injury to others was this kind of treatment warranted. Short of that, this was a perverted application of aggression to enforce rules that were not, in fact, being broken. The next steps would be to actually club and beat and then shoot people for demonstrating peacefully, that is, without attacking cops, burning cars, smashing windows and so on. So in this incident at least the police were just two steps away from being the arm of a fascist state that wields power only to the extent that it can intimidate and harm its protesting but lawful citizens. That is not a "mistake." That is "misconduct" wholl