UC picks protest investigators

The University of California has tapped former Los Angeles police chief William Bratton to lead the investigation into the pepper spraying of UC Davis students during a nonviolent protest last week.

UC President Mark Yudof also named Christopher Edley, Jr., dean of UC Berkeley law school, to head an examination of police policies and practices at all ten university campuses.

Bratton will have 30 days to conduct an independent investigation of the UC Davis incident and report back to Yudof and an advisory committee of students, faculty, staff, and other community members. The panel will recommend changes in police protocol to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to ensure the safety of peaceful student protestors.

Bratton was LAPD chief from 2002 to 2009. He also led the New York City police department, and is now chairman of the New York-based Kroll consulting company.

“My intent,” said Yudof in a statement released yesterday, “is to provide the Chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.”

A video that went viral within hours of being posted on the web last Friday shows campus police blasting pepper spray directly into the faces of student protestors seated peacefully on the quad to try to prevent the officers from tearing down their Occupy encampment.

Two officers involved in the spraying and the campus police chief have been placed on administrative leave. Katehi, who has been inundated with calls for her resignation, apologized to students during an emotional speech Monday afternoon. She acknowledged that many of them have lost faith in her.

“And I know you may not believe anything that I’m telling you today, and you don’t have to. It is my responsibility to earn your trust.”

The systemwide investigation, lead by Dean Edley and UC General Counsel Charles Robinson, will include visits to UC campuses to talk with students, faculty, staff, and experts on campus safety and police practices.

“With these actions,” Yudof said, “we are moving forward to identify what needs to be done to ensure the safety of students and others who engage in nonviolent protests on UC campuses. The right to peaceful protest on all of our campuses must be protected.”