The Reynoso Report

by zunguzungu

The Reynoso report on the UC Davis pepper spray “incident” has been released, and it’s much better than we had reason to fear (the police review of the November 9th beatings at UC Berkeley was, by contrast, total administrative whitewash). As Nathan Brown puts it, the Reynoso report is “a damning portrait of administrative malice, stupidity, incompetence, and immaturity”:

1) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi and other senior administrators propped up their decision to evict the Occupy UC Davis encampment with fear-mongering based on the fallacious claim that numerous “non-affiliates” of the university were involved in the camp, ignoring and rejecting clear statements to the contrary by their own staff.

2) The report makes clear that Chancellor Katehi insisted on the removal of tents from the quad by police with no legal basis for such a police action, and that there were thus no legitimate grounds for ordering a police operation at all.
3) The report makes clear that Katehi ignored the concerns of her own staff and of the police that attempting to evict the encampment at 3:00pm on Friday afternoon would lead to a confrontation.

4) The report makes clear that, despite the Chancellor’s belated claim of November 21 that she ordered the police not to use force, the Chancellor made no concrete effort whatsoever to avoid the use of police force against demonstrators on November 18.

In short, the report makes clear that the so-called “Leadership Team,” and particularly the Chancellor, acted in a flagrantly totalitarian fashion. The Chancellor promulgated falsehoods concerning the basis for police action; she ignored the lack of legal grounds for such an action; she overruled objections to the timing of the eviction; and she made no reasonable effort to avoid police violence against students.

Since the Chancellor has been calling upon us to wait for the findings of the report before passing judgment concerning the events of November 18, let’s assess its conclusions and pass judgment accordingly. Its “key finding” is unequivocal:

While the deployment of the pepper spray on the Quad at UC Davis on November 18, 2011 was flawed, it was the systemic and repeated failures in the civilian, UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after 3 p.m. that day…

Read the rest of Brown’s piece here.

I haven’t had time to fully take in the whole thing, but on a first reading, I’m struck by how much blame it puts on chain of command failures: directives not understood, misinterpreted, or not given. Yet in the immediate aftermath of the pepper spraying, both the chancellor and the police chief unreservedly praised the actions that were taken (actions which, according to the report, were in violation of all sorts of good intentions and directives). In other words, if they made mistakes “in good faith” as Cruz Reynoso was just saying (on KQED’s Forum), then it is eminently clear they had NO interest in owning those mistakes, then or now. And so, we have to ask the (depressingly answerable) question of why, absent any concrete means of forcing accountability, anyone would expect that to change? Especially since UC president Yudof announced the release of the report by saying how much he was looking forward to working *with* Katehi, it’s pretty clear that it will not come from within the UC:

Even a cursory reading of the report confirms what we have known from the start: Friday, Nov. 18 was a bad day for the UC Davis community and for the entire UC system.

We can and must do better. I look forward to working with Chancellor Katehi to repair the damage caused by this incident and to move this great campus forward.

So, you know, awesome.