Report On UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident Finds Police Conduct ‘Objectively Unreasonable’

Two reports commissioned by the University of California-Davis to investigate the infamous pepper spray incident from last fall have been released to the public, and they appear to verify most of the facts put forth by Occupy protesters and fly in the face of the allegations made by the university and its police department.

The Reynoso Task Force Report takes a close look at the events of November 18, 2011, when UC-Davis campus police moved to evict occupiers from campus. In an incident made instantly famous on YouTube, Lieutenant John Pike stepped over a line of peaceful students seated on the ground and calmly proceeded to douse them with military-grade pepper spray. The shocking video quickly went viral, and outrage over the conduct of the police department and UC-Davis’ failure to properly reprimand the officer spread nationwide.

Throughout more than 100 pages of the two reports — one conducted by the task force itself, the other by an outside company at the behest of the university — virtually all of the claims initially made by the police department and its defenders in the UC-Davis administration were debunked.

The task force found that the use of MK-9, the pepper spray discharged by Lt. Pike (and called a food product by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly), was not an authorized weapon for the department and its use “was objectively unreasonable.”


When asked why they felt the need to use the spray, officers initially told the task force that they felt the mob was hostile and needed to create a pathway for the officers to leave the quad. The task force concluded that “a detailed review of the evidence undermines this conclusion.”

The report is damaging to both the police department and to UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who beat back calls for her resignation. The union representing the police department went as far as to seek judicial intervention in blocking the release of the report, but a judge ruled against them on nearly every count.

California State Senator Leland Yee issued a statement following the release of the report:

I am very pleased with the thoroughness of the task force report. As the report indicates, the pepper spray incident was a massive failure by the UC Davis administration and police force. This report allows President Yudof to hold his campus leadership accountable. It also lays the blue print for effectively handling such situations in the future and helps ensure such an incident never happens again. I commend the task force for recognizing the scope of this problem and respecting the free speech rights of students.

Just last week, students at Santa Monica College who were protesting increased tuition costs were similarly pepper sprayed by police, and observers immediately drew comparisons to the events at UC-Davis.