Investigations to Probe Police Conduct at Protest

Photo: Police and protesters engaged in an altercation in front of Wheeler Hall during the Nov. 20 protest that attracted around 1,500 people.
Lara Brucker/File
Police and protesters engaged in an altercation in front of Wheeler Hall during the Nov. 20 protest that attracted around 1,500 people.

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The representative body for UC Berkeley faculty issued a statement Wednesday urging the campus community to "work together" following allegations of police brutality against students and protesters that occurred on Nov. 20.

The UC Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate expressed support for ongoing investigations of police behavior toward an estimated 1,500 demonstrators who rallied outside Wheeler Hall during the more than 12-hour occupation of the building by 40 individuals.

While the number of injuries from clashes between police and demonstrators has not been determined, police hit demonstrators with batons several times during the Nov. 20 protest. Whether police used other weapons, such as beanbag guns, is still unclear.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a message Nov. 23 announcing that two investigations will take place to examine police behavior. One will be an operational review by UCPD, while the second will be an independent investigation by the Campus Police Review Board, whose members include students, faculty and staff.

Both the message from Birgeneau and from the Academic Senate emphasized their level of commitment to and the importance of both investigations.

"We wanted to express our strong need ... for the investigation," said Berkeley Division Chair Chris Kutz, who is also a member of the Campus Police Review Board. "We need to focus on moving the investigation along."

Kutz said the Campus Police Review Board is still in the process of compiling video footage and other information surrounding police interaction with protesters.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said both the Academic Senate and the campus administration want the investigations to be as thorough as possible.

"It is clear that there is going to be a serious review of the events around Wheeler," he said.

In their statement, the Academic Senate said there is a need for more "open dialogue" between students and administrators.

"One of the (issues) was the invisibility of Chancellor Birgeneau Friday (Nov. 20) and the following week and the extreme reluctance to engage with most vocal protesters," Kutz said. "There needs to be more public and private conversations."

Mogulof, however, said Birgeneau is committed to the reviews as well as efforts to reach out to students and faculty.

"People should take at face value the chancellor's commitment to the reviews and the parts of his letter that express his profound concern," he said.

Mogulof added that administrators have already begun outreach with faculty and students in order to establish better communication on other issues. He said discussions with the Graduate Assembly and with the ASUC are being organized.

Kelly Fabian, chief of staff for the Student Advocate Office, said in an e-mail that the topic of police behavior during the protests will most likely arise at the upcoming ASUC Student Police Review Forum on Dec. 1, a monthly forum at which issues of safety have been discussed in the past.

"(It) could lead to a more adversarial forum," she said. "However, the hope is that this forum will provide a safe space for students to voice their questions on any subject to the UCPD and for the police officers to provide these students with answers."


Contact Emma Anderson at [email protected]

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