The latest report to emerge in the aftermath of the UC Davis pepper spray police brutality incident takes a prospective approach.
The draft Response to Protests on UC Campusus looks ahead...and seeks to facilitate increased understanding among parties that might find themselves facing off at a protest (cops and students) so that in any event confrontations of a violent nature can be avoided.
Critically, the Report begins with the premise that "free expression, robust discourse, and vigorous debate over ideas and principles are essential to the mission of our University." Yet the Report also recognizes that while civil disobedience is a longstanding method of protest it is a method that by nature involves law-breaking, which comes with consequences.
("Indeed, part of the reason a protester engages in civil disobedience is to express the protester's willingness to be arrested or otherwise sanctioned as a sacrifice to the political cause in question; the history of civil disobedience includes a history of consequences.")
But if anyone thought pepper spray police brutality was an appropriate response to the kind of civil disobedience practiced by the UC Davis protesters (peaceful students seeking to advance a platform of equality and justice), a viral video and world condemnation surely set them straight.
Instead of laying blame for what happened in the past, however, the Report comes up with 50 recommendations to avoid problems in the future.
Among the Report's interesting findings are that universities generally (i.e., not just within the UC system) lack specific policies on the "peculiar challenges" presented by civil disobedience. The Report's first set of recommendations are thus geared to addresses this deficiency so everyone can better understand the nature and scope of legal protections surrounding civil disobedience.
Among the Report's other recommendations are that students and campus police should have more opportunities for interaction (like UC Santa Cruz's semester-long course entitled "Citizen Police Academy") and implement clear policies geared at deescalation.
The Report also recommends that campus police consider becoming more adept at social media like Twitter so they can better communicate with protesters. The Report calls for further review and development of a system-wide use-of-force response option framework. The Report also calls for more research into the question of whether pepper spray should ever be used at all.
An overriding message is that progressive change can start right here in our quads...and it's never too late to get the conversation started...