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UC report urges better training for response to civil disobedience

A new University of California draft report on campus civil disobedience urges UC police and administrators to put more emphasis on mediation instead of confrontation when dealing with student protests, although pepper spray might remain a necessary tool of last resort

A new University of California draft report on campus civil disobedience urges UC police and administrators to put more emphasis on mediation instead of confrontation when dealing with student protests, although pepper spray might remain a necessary tool of last resort.

The report, released Friday, recommended better training for campus police, with an emphasis on defusing potentially volatile situations, and more clear-cut communication to protesters about rules and policies. It recommended that administrators not authorize any physical police response against protesters non-aggressively linking arms, as those at UC Davis in November were, “unless the protesters were significantly interfering with the academic mission of the campus.”

In the rare cases that some force is needed, the report recommends that “campus police utilize hands-on pain compliance techniques before pepper spray or batons whenever feasible.”

However, it said that it would not ban pepper spray altogether since more research, possibly on a national level, is needed to compare its health and injury risks to those of batons and Tasers.

“Without information on comparative safety, we think it would be imprudent for us to offer any conclusive recommendations on whether UC police officers should continue to carry pepper spray,” according to the study.

The report was one of several UC responses to controversial encounters in November, when student protesters were pepper sprayed at UC Davis and complaints arose that UC Berkeley students were roughed up by campus police.

The panel, headed by UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley and the UC systems vice president and general counsel Charles Robinson, was asked to look at best practices for handling future demonstrations. A previous, separate panel at UC Davis last month sharply criticized the pepper spraying and administrators’ decisions in the incident at that campus.

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-- Larry Gordon

Photo: UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters on Nov. 18, 2011. Credit: Wayne Tilcock / Associated Press

 
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