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UC Davis officers placed on leave after pepper spray incident

November 20, 2011 | 12:47 pm

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.

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

“I spoke with students this weekend, and I feel their outrage,” UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. 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."

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

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

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 a 30-day deadline to complete their report.

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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 pepper spray incident occurred Friday 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.


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-- Abby Sewell