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Two Davis officers put on leave; UC president 'appalled' by tactics

Mark G. Yudof, the system president, orders an urgent review of use of force and security practices after two UC Davis officers use pepper spray on nonviolent student protesters.

November 21, 2011|Larry Gordon and Abby Sewell

Two UC Davis campus police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave over their controversial use of pepper spray on student protesters, university officials announced Sunday as the UC system president said he was "appalled" by the incident and promised a review of police procedures at all campuses.

Mark G. Yudof, the UC system president, said he would be talking to the 10 campus chancellors, as well as experts and other campus groups, "to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes."

"Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and nonviolent protest has long been central to our history," Yudof said. "It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right."

Yudof said he was prompted to seek the review by the UC Davis incident as well as by how campus police at UC Berkeley used their batons on protesters at a recent demonstration there.

A video that showed an officer spraying a group of UC Davis students who were huddled on the ground Friday quickly went viral on the Internet, drawing outrage and calls for the chancellor's resignation.

UC Davis spokeswoman Claudia Morain said the two officers placed on leave were the only officers they were able to identify as having deployed pepper spray.

The officers, whose names were not released, will remain on paid leave indefinitely.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi initially did not criticize police, but on Saturday said she would convene a task force to look into the incident. On Sunday, she said the faculty, students and staff who will serve on the task force will be chosen immediately and that they will have 30 days to complete their report.

"I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage," Katehi said in a statement. "I am deeply saddened that this happened on our campus, and as chancellor, I take full responsibility for the incident. However, I pledge to take the actions needed to ensure that this does not happen again."

Police said officers were trying to get out of the protest area when they used the pepper spray.

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told reporters Saturday that the decision to use the pepper spray was made at the scene.

"The students had encircled the officers," she said. "They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out."

But the school said in a statement: "Videos taken during Friday's arrests showed that the two officers used pepper spray on peacefully seated students."

The incident occurred as police were attempting to clear an overnight encampment of 25 tents associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Ten protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse. Eleven were treated for the effects of pepper spray, including two who were taken to an area hospital. The students were treated and released.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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