The pepper spray incident at an Occupy UC Davis protest on November 18, 2011, is still having effects today toward the police department. UC Davis Police Chief Annette M. Spicuzza resigned April 19, 2012, stating that the decision was so people involved “could move forward.” The pepper spraying of about 11 students could have been prevented, and now the officers are confronting their mistakes.
Two of the 11 students had to go to the hospital from injuries related to experiencing pepper spray. Chief Spicuzza had over 20 years of experience before being at UC Davis, and was on paid administrative leave with two additional officers suspended after the incident on November 18. UC Davis Police could have coordinated better to have prohibited the incident from occurring.
This situation brings awareness to other campuses, and demonstrates how a lack of coordination can affect students’ protection. The scenario with the UC Davis police department can be a lesson to other campuses to prevent dangerous circumstances with students.
UC Merced students were asked to give their opinion based on the incident of the pepper spraying, and how they felt about the actions taken by the UC Davis Police Department.
UCM Senior Erica Rodriguez said, “If there is no harm in sight but rather peace, there should be no violence executed by the police at hand. This just makes it obvious that the police don't make sure students' safety is key—[it is] at risk to ‘dysfunctional’ measures.” In addition, Rodriguez believes the Chief made the right decision to resign, but there shouldn’t have been paid leave. However, Rodriguez thinks UC Davis needs an administration change that will help fulfill the needs of students, and that will guide the University to a more harmonious atmosphere.
Student Natalia Guerra stated, “The protest was a peaceful protest, where the students were sitting down, [and] not doing anything except expressing their opinions towards the Occupy movement. The actions that police officers were able to take, if things escalated, should have been discussed beforehand to avoid these sorts of problems.”
UCM student Adriana Monterroza mentioned that Chief Spicuzzamade the right decision to resign, because her actions will always be criticized. On the other hand, Monterroza believes that the police officers misused their authority while on duty.
UC Davis got plenty of criticism on behalf of the pepper-spraying occurrence. The Sacramento Bee reported, “A task force led by a retired California Supreme Court justice issued a report that blamed the happening on poor planning and decision-making at all levels of the school administration.” A new beginning is starting with Matthew Carmichael, who is now the new Chief at UC Davis for a one-year period. Carmichael stated that his priority for now was to rebuild the relationship with the students and campus community.