The Daily Californian Online

Report Criticizes Response to Wheeler Occupation, Protest

By Mihir Zaveri
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Category: News > University > Academics and Administration

Following more than five months of scrutiny over the conduct of authorities during turbulent demonstrations on Nov. 20, the UC Berkeley Police Review Board released a final report Wednesday which, despite its criticism of administration and police actions, was met with general approval from both parties.

While the board did not explicitly blame any single body for the intermittently violent nature of the protests, the 128-page report highlights a lack of communication both internally (between members of the administration and the police) and externally, with protesters' actions possibly contributing to the administration's at times questionable tactics in dealing with the crowd.

The report further criticizes UCPD for lapses in judgment during the course of the protest and in its aftermath and for not reviewing the event promptly and effectively.

In conjunction with the report's release, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Associate Vice Chancellor, Business and Administrative Services Ron Coley and UCPD Chief Mitch Celaya released letters applauding the efforts of the board and largely accepting its recommendations and findings about the day's events.

On Nov. 20, the day after the UC Board of Regents approved a 32 percent increase in student fees, protests on the Berkeley campus escalated dramatically with the occupation of Wheeler Hall and violent clashes between demonstrators and police agencies - including the campus police, Berkeley Police Department, Oakland Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Several students and faculty decried what they saw as the police's use of excessive force, prompting Birgeneau to instruct the board, chaired by Berkeley law professor Wayne Brazil, to evaluate the day's events and formulate recommendations for improving police and administrative conduct.

A 'Center-less' Response

The report provides a detailed narrative of the day's events, describing several violent encounters between protesters and police and confirming that one student was "shot in the stomach with a rubber pellet or projectile."

Celaya said the student was shot by a member of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, revealing the confusion that resulted from a lack of communication and mismanagement between the several agencies that responded to UCPD's call for mutual aid.

According to Celaya, the lack of communication permeated through the police agencies both during the protests and after them, as UCPD attempted to conduct an internal review of the day's events. The report states that the board could not begin its own investigation until the internal review was completed.

While the deadline for UCPD's internal review was the end of January, it was not completed until seven weeks later, "compromising" the information on which the board based its review due to "fading" memories, the report states.

Celaya said different perspectives and sources of information clouded UCPD's ability to construct a reliable account of the confrontations.

Brazil said in an interview that while the board received some evidence suggesting excessive use of force on the part of police, no conclusive determination could be made by the board.

'Reasonable' Recommendations

The eight members of the independent board - including faculty, students, staff, police and community representatives - issued a total of eight recommendations for the campus administration and 20 recommendations for UCPD in order to facilitate a more cohesive and effective response to demonstrations on campus in the future.

Many of the board's recommendations elicit a need for both campus administration and police to either forge new or adopt existing policies to better respond to situations such as the Nov. 20 occupation. Others mandate increased communication among and between protesters, authorities and the public.

"We are at Berkeley and we know this is not going to be the last protest ... We need to be able to take these kinds of opportunities to learn, and Professor Brazil provided a lot of material for us to learn and to grow from," Coley said.

Birgeneau said in an interview that the campus will accept all of the board's recommendations, touting that the campus has already enacted several of the board's suggested practices. He said the campus made deliberate efforts to increase communication with hunger strikers who were protesting the Arizona immigration bill in early May.

Celaya said UCPD has also made progress since Nov. 20, having already acted upon several of the board's recommendations prior to the release of the report, including acquiring bullhorns to address crowds more effectively and publicizing campus "time, place and manner" rules to the campus community.

"I look forward to looking at the recommendations more closely and putting those in place," Celaya said.

Emma Anderson, Stephanie Baer and Javier Panzar of The Daily

Californian contributed to this report.

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