On Tuesday, June 26, Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled that the University of California must release the names of the UC Davis police officers listed in the report on the controversial incident involving the pepper spraying of non-violent student protestors on the UC Davis campus.
The case had previously been filed by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Bee, who sued the UC Board of Regents, claiming that under the California Public Records Act, the board was mandated to release the entire Reynoso report to the public.
The ruling was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as successful in establishing transparency on the issue for greater public interest, while the spokesperson for the University of California claimed that it was in support of the release of the report all along.
The incident in question occurred on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 when two UC Davis police officers, one of them identified as Lieutenant John Pike, activated their pepper sprays on a circle of student protesters non-violently sitting down with arms linked in the campus quad. Ten of the students were arrested on charges of assembling unlawfully and refusing to disperse when ordered to do so by the police.
The demonstrating students had previously set up an encampment and were sitting down and blocking the police from tearing it down. Orders to take down the camps were given at the request of the chancellor of UC Davis, Linda P.B. Katehi, and a force of police officers was dispatched to deal with the students.
Shortly after the incident, images of Lt. Pike spraying a cloud of orange pepper spray into the eyes of students went viral and contributed to sparking public outcry over the demonstration. An investigation of the incident was ordered, with a task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso sent out to inquire on the occurrence.
The report compiled by Reynoso’s task force included information on the investigation as well as the names of the campus police officers assigned to demonstration that day. The ruling itself came little over a month after UC Davis Chief of Police Annette Spicuzza was placed on administrative leave, who then resigned after details from the report on the incident chastised her commanding abilities of the situation.
In opposition to the ACLU and the press’s position, the police officer’s union claimed that release of the officers’ names would subject them to threats, harassment or possible dangers.
Judge Grillo countered their claims by stating that he felt Lt. Pike seemingly faced no identifiable forms of harassment, despite Pike’s claims of threats and unwanted packages since the course of the incident, and that all of the officers had worn nametags and were thus identifiable while they were on duty.
Grillo claimed that transparency in this situation will be established due to the involvement of uniformed police officers acting against nonviolent student protestors.