Annette M. Spicuzza made national headlines this month when she resigned from her position as UC Davis Chief of Police.
Her decision followed the release of a highly-critical report detailing the actions of the UC Davis Police Department and the UC Davis Administration during the November 2011 pepper spray incident.
The report blasted Spicuzza, who has been a member of the UC Davis Police Department since 2005 and has served in the police force for a total of 27 years, for her “dysfunctional” command structure and “critically flawed” actions in regard to both her superiors and subordinates.
Spicuzza was not directly responsible for the pepper spray incident.
She reportedly told officers to adhere to the strict “no violence” order given by the chancellor.
Nevertheless, her failure to meet the obligations and fulfill her duties had troublesome consequences.
The report states that Spicuzza failed to attend her department’s operational briefing regarding the protest response and that her leadership during the event was severely lacking.
One officer claimed to see her filming some of the most tumultuous moments of the protest on her cell phone while he was awaiting her direction.
“For the past seven years, I have accomplished many good things for both the police department and community here at UC Davis,” Spicuzza wrote in an email to the Sacramento Bee last Wednesday.
“As the university does not want this incident to be its defining moment, nor do I wish for it to be mine. I believe in order to start the healing process, this chapter of my life must be closed.”
UC Irvine Chief of Police Paul Henisey says he understands and supports Spicuzza’s decision to resign.
While many of the actions that have come to define the November protest were not those Spicuzza was involved with, she seemed to have done little to prevent them.
“As a chief, I have ultimate responsibility for the entire department and I take it very seriously,” Henisey said. “At the same time, I expect all of our personnel to act appropriately and professionally at all times.”
The event that caused the most public outcry was the use of unnecessary violence on student protestors.
The most infamous example is Lieutenant John Pike’s use of pepper spray against what appeared to be a group of peaceful protestors.
Pike later claimed that he was trapped by the blockade of students, although video footage shows him stepping over and walking around them minutes before he pepper sprayed them.
Spicuzza had previously given an order forbidding the use of weapons such as pepper spray and batons and was not involved with the pepper spraying that took place.
“I think Pike should have resigned,” said UC Irvine senior Mikhael Kazzi.
“What he did was a total abuse of power and it was insubordination. He clearly shouldn’t have felt threatened; all [of] the defense he gave was clearly proven false by the video.”
Pike remains on paid administrative leave.
Although Spicuzza’s resignation has once again drawn public attention to last year’s protest, the report concludes the incident was the result of poor communication and inadequate planning within both the UC Davis Police Department and throughout the Administration.
According to the incident report, the UC Davis Office of Student Affairs was simply not prepared to handle the number and frequency of student protests that were occurring at the time, leading to a series of events that could have been prevented.
The orders given by administrative officials were not well-planned or effectively communicated to the police force, and the legal basis for the removal of the protestors and their camp was never made clear.
The UC Davis Administration felt the protest posed a threat to campus security as it invited non-campus affiliates onto school grounds, but no prior investigation into this was carried out. Subsequent investigation suggests that there were few, if any, non-affiliates present at the demonstrations, adding to the controversey surrounding to the pepper spray incident.
While there were clear weaknesses in police action during the protest, the report concludes that it was the “systematic and repeated failures in the civilian UC Davis Administration decision-making process that put the officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves.”