Leadership & Governance

Amid Furor Over Police Responses to Protests, U. of California Plans a Systemwide Policy Review

November 20, 2011

Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California system, responded on Sunday to public expressions of outrage over forceful responses from police officers to demonstrations on the Berkeley and Davis campuses, saying he was "appalled" by images of students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with batons.

He also said he would convene a meeting of all 10 campus chancellors to discuss "how to ensure proportional law-enforcement response to nonviolent protest."

The incidents at Berkeley and Davis were recorded in videos that have been widely circulated online and have drawn widespread criticism of police tactics and university leaders on those campuses.

Mr. Yudof praised the leaders, however, for quickly starting investigations of the incidents on their campuses. "I applaud this rapid response and eagerly await the results," he said in a statement posted on the university's Web site.

Still, he said, a systemwide response was needed.

"I will be asking the chancellors to forward to me at once all relevant protocols and policies already in place on their individual campuses, as well as those that apply to the engagement of noncampus police agencies through mutual-aid agreements," Mr. Yudof said. He said he would also assemble an expert panel "to conduct a thorough, far-reaching, and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes."

Those actions do not reflect any desire to micromanage the chancellors or campus security personnel, he said. "Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest."

Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of the Davis campus, said in a separate statement on Sunday that she had heard from "an overwhelming number of students, faculty, staff, and alumni" about the incident at Davis, where videos taken on Friday showed officers using pepper spray on peacefully seated students. Ten protesters were arrested during the incident.

Ms. Katehi said she took "full responsibility for the incident" and pledged "to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again." She is appointing a committee to investigate the episode and has given it 30 days to issue a report. She said she had spoken with students this weekend and feels their outrage. She also plans to meet with members of a protest group on Monday.

Two officers have been placed on leave in connection with the incident.