UC Davis pepper spray report delayed as police union threatens legal action

Facing threat of legal action by the union for University of California, Davis, campus police, officials scrapped plans to release a report today on the November pepper spraying of students and protesters in the UC Davis quad.

The report, the result of months of investigation by the security and investigations firm Kroll, was to be posted on the UC Davis website at noon today and unveiled at a public meeting on the campus later in the afternoon.

But, late Monday UC officials announced that the plan to release the report was being halted because of legal action by the Federated University Police Officers Association.

Two officers and the campus chief were placed on leave after students and protesters who gathered to speak out against education costs were pepper sprayed when they ignored police orders to disperse.

John Bakhit, the lawyer for Lt. John Pike, the university officer whose image became known worldwide from video of him spraying the group, told university officials he planned to seek a court order today barring release of the report.

Bakhit did not respond to a request for comment, but university officials said they were told the union attorney would seek a temporary restraining order in Alameda Superior Court this morning.

Pike declined to comment Monday, saying he was under direct orders by UC Davis officials not to make any statements about the case.

The legal standoff scuttled plans by former state Supreme Court Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso to make the investigation and recommendations public.

Reynoso and UC President Mark Yudof both issued statements Monday saying they still plan to make the report public.

“I was very frustrated to receive this news today,” Reynoso wrote in a letter to members of his task force. “However, let me assure you that I am undeterred in my commitment to release the complete and unredacted work of the Task Force, a view shared by President Yudof.”

The task force was formed at the request of UC Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, who came under intense criticism after the incident.

Katehi has since said she did not know of plans to use pepper spray and would not have allowed it, but the incident has spawned half a dozen investigations or reviews, as well as a civil rights lawsuit by the individuals hit with the pepper spray.

The chancellor said late Monday that she was “tremendously disappointed” by the delay and hoped the report can be released soon.

“Meanwhile, work continues as we near completion of the campus’s own internal affairs investigation into complaints of officer misconduct, which would be the basis for any personnel actions concerning the accused officers,” she added in a statement.

Yudof also expressed disappointment.

“The entire UC Davis community deserves a fully transparent and unexpurgated accounting of the incidents in question,” he said in a statement. “Though I have not seen the reports, I am told the task force and its supporting investigators have provided just such an accounting.”

From The Sacramento Bee.