Remember the Pepper-Spraying Cop? UC Davis Releases a Powerful Report

If you are looking for something to read today, I highly recommend the "Reynoso Task Force Report," with its accompanying "Kroll Report" appendix. These are the findings of the panel chaired by Cruz Reynoso, a well-known former Justice of the California Supreme Court, charged with looking into the causes and consequences of the pepper-spraying episode at UC Davis last November.

As a reminder:

The report is relatively short, and is also direct, non-mealy-mouthed, and very much worth reading in its entirety.

If anything, the lengthy accompanying "Kroll Report," from private investigators retained by the U.C. system president Mark Yudof to look into the event, is more startling and dramatic. According to its cover page, it was originally considered "Confidential - Do Not Distribute," and you can see why. It includes a lot of raw testimony from people involved in the decisions about when and how to disperse the demonstrators.

Campus police and others come in for their share of criticism, including specifically the police lieutenant who has become notorious from the picture above. Both he and the UC Davis police chief remain on paid administrative leave. But at face value its findings are also very damaging to the still-serving Chancellor of UC Davis, Linda Katehi. For instance, the Kroll report says about a letter asking the demonstrators to disperse:

In case that's illegible, it says:

"Chancellor Katehi told Kroll investigators that Student Affairs wrote the letter and that she did not review it before it went out. The record contradicts both of these statements, as detailed below. Katehi did review the letter, provided an editorial change and approved it. Student Affairs did not write the letter..."

The Kroll report offers email and other evidence to back up this claim. Similarly, from the main Reynoso report:
And if that is illegible:

"When explaining their decisions on Nov. 17 and 18, UC Davis administrators repeatedly referenced this concern about individuals not affiliated with the university at Occupy movement protests and encampments on campus, and the security risks created by their presence. Indeed, in Chancellor Katehi's letter distributed to campus protesters on Nov. 18, the day of the pepper spray incident, the Chancellor wrote "We are aware that many of those involved in the recent demonstrations on campus are not members of the UC Davis community. This requires us to be even more vigilant about the safety of our students, faculty and staff." As our report will indicate these concerns were not supported by any evidence obtained by Kroll."

This last point is important because the heavy-handed police response was initially justified by the need to remove "outside agitators" -- non-students -- from the campus. The chancellor might well have convincing responses to these and similar findings, but the report certainly shows that responses are needed.

There is much more in the report. The episode is off the front pages, but the UC system will show important things about itself with its long-term response and steps toward internal accountability. In its clarity and directness this first step is encouraging.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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