Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday Must Read: Police Use of Pepper Spray Appears to Have Been Illegal; UC Davis Chancellor Says Police Disobeyed Orders

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 7:20 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. UC Davis police officers appear to have violated the law when they pepper sprayed peaceful demonstrators who were sitting on the ground, linked arm-in-arm, in an Occupy movement protest. The Chron notes that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2000 that cops can only use pepper spray to prevent harm to themselves or someone else. And no evidence has surfaced so far that the nonviolent protesters at UC Davis posed a threat to anyone. However, legal experts say that if the protesters sue, it will be up to a jury decide whether UC Davis cops broke the law, and juries often side with police officers in use of force cases.

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2. Embattled UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi told the SacBee that campus police disobeyed her direct instructions to not use force against Occupy protesters. “We told them very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it,” she said, referring to instructions she said her office gave to police about removing Occupy tents and protesters. “And then we told them we also do not want to have another Berkeley.” The last comment referred to an earlier incident at Cal in which police clubbed peaceful protesters with their batons. Katehi also said that campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to pepper spray protesters was made by Lieutenant John Pike. Pike is the officer shown in videos and photographs spraying the protesters as they sat on the ground.

3. UC President Mark Yudof has called on former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to lead the investigation into the pepper-spray scandal at UC Davis, the LA Times reports. Yudof also appointed UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to examine police use of force policies at all ten UC campuses. Both Katehi and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau have apologized for the over-the-top responses by police to peaceful protesters.

4. Occupy Oakland protesters voluntarily vacated an encampment on private land in West Oakland after the property owner said she never gave permission to the demonstrator to set up tents, the Chron reports. Demonstrators said the property owner had previously told them they could put up an encampment on her land, which is facing possible foreclosure.

5. Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials have put off making a decision about where to locate the lab’s second campus until next year, Berkeleyside reports. Lab officials had said they would choose among six finalists this month, but now say they need more time.

6. State residents will be able to “opt out” of having PG&E’s controversial SmartMeters on their homes, but will have to pay extra to do so under a new proposal by the California Public Utilities Commission, the Chron and Mercury News report. Opponents of SmartMeters immediately decried the plan by commission President Michael Peevey, noting that it closely resembles PG&E’s own proposal.

7. And a consumer watchdog group is once again warning holiday shoppers to avoid certain toys because they contain lead or other toxic chemicals or present choking hazards for children, AP reports. The annual report on toys comes from the respected US Public Interest Group.

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