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UC Davis pepper-spray report to be released without most cops' names

UC system and police union reach tentative agreement allowing public disclosure of the investigation into campus police tactics at an Occupy protest last fall.

April 10, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • The close-range pepper spraying of the Occupy demonstrators at UC Davis triggered national outrage.
The close-range pepper spraying of the Occupy demonstrators at UC Davis… (Wayne Tilcock / Associated…)

The University of California's investigative report into the controversial pepper-spraying of student protesters by UC Davis campus police is expected to be released publicly Wednesday — with most officers' names removed.

After a monthlong legal battle delaying the release, UC and its police union reached a tentative legal settlement Monday that would allow the public disclosure of most of the report about police tactics and UC Davis administrators' roles in the November incident. However, the agreement calls for the names and ranks of most of the UC Davis police officers to be stripped from the document.

Under the agreement, only the names of Lt. John Pike, the officer shown spraying students in a highly viewed online video, and that of UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza would be included. More than 15 UC Davis officers were reportedly named in the original version of the report that the union sought to block, contending it would violate privacy rules and lead to harassment.

The report now is tentatively scheduled to be released online at noon Wednesday on the UC Davis home page, http://www.ucdavis.edu. Later Wednesday, the UC panel that investigated the event is expected to present the findings and field questions from students and faculty at a UC Davis campus forum.

The close-range spraying of the mainly seated Occupy demonstrators triggered national outrage. In response, UC Davis formed a task force, headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, to study the matter and hired former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton's Kroll security firm to consult. The much-anticipated document originally was to be released March 6, when the police filed a court action against it.

At a Superior Court hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Oakland, both UC and the union will ask the judge to approve the settlement. The police union Monday agreed not to appeal the court's decision last month that rejected most of the union's arguments; the judge also had given the union several more weeks to appeal and granted a preliminary injunction temporarily keeping most of the names confidential.

UC spokesman Steve Montiel said Monday the university agreed to the settlement because UC wanted to make public the substance of the report as quickly as possible and did not want delays by a possible union appeal over the names.

"An appeal would have tied it up for months," he said. Montiel emphasized that the report's basic findings and policy recommendations would not be affected by the withholding of the officers' names.

John Bakhit, attorney for the Federated University Police Officers Assn., could not be reached for comment. Five officers face disciplinary probes and other officers who were witnesses to the spraying and were interviewed for the report have been promised immunity, UC officials have said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, a party to the lawsuit, said it may proceed to seek public release of all the officers' names under the state public records law. ACLU attorney Michael Risher said his organization would not block the settlement but would study whether it should move forward to obtain the names. The Los Angeles Times, which has sought the full report, is continuing to press for the officers' names.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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