Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chancellor Katehi not all of the problem, but she must go

When asked about the calling for her resignation, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi replied that she did not violate any institutional policies, therefore she would not step down after video showed passive sitting students sprayed by campus police in their faces. Faculty member at the scene observed that for those refused to open their mouths, police pried open their mouths and then sadistically sprayed down their throats, all while a group of a few (a dozen to be precise) students were sitting still on the ground of the quad area at UC Davis.

Based on the videos now viral online at YouTube as well as many other websites, it is clear that those few students in protesting were not a threat to any one, in the least to the police officers in full riot gears, in Robocop costume as described by one bystander. In the video, police officers who were applying sprays were walking in a casual, if not joyful, manner, up and down and back and force around and above the sitting students. It is obvious to viewers that the pepper spray was used as a punishment. Through the entire process, students did not resist, or even move their bodies or fingers. They were sitting there, armed linked, when police officers spray on their faces. And they did not move when they were arrested one by one.

Many viewers of these videos were outraged, and called for termination of the police officer, Lt Pike of the UC Davis Police Department. As a matter of fact, a 9th Circuit ruling (276 F.3d 1125) in 2002 clearly outlawed police use of pepper spray against non-violent protesters.

However, law enforcing experts hold different opinions after carefully examining the same video. For example, Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters. Baltimore is not subject to California State Law, and is not covered by 9th Circuit in federal justice system. That being said, Kelly also was able to point out at least two instances when he found the student protesters where not 'passive'. In one case, a girl pull back her arm when police officers grabbed her. In another case, a boy curved himself into a ball on the ground. By police book, both warrant higher level of aggressive tactics (than pepper spray). In other words, by police standard, UC Davis police demonstrated not only high level of professionalism, but also great self-restraint even after being provoked.

At this time, it worth to review the video a few more times, to check out the two cases pointed out by Kelly. The trouble is, the Seagull, or any reasonable viewer would still have a difficult time to recognize any 'non-passive' movement of gesture of those sitting students, even after the hints, clues and helpful finger-pointing.

The discrepancy between the public and the police's view illustrated a bigger problem, as many referred to as a consequence of militarization of urban police, a topic with deeper implications.

Chancellor Katehi was trapped in her own media room on campus after a press conference late Saturday. Ms. Katehi refused to step down, as she 'did not violate any institutional policies', then refused to step outside the building, possibly felt threatened by her own students, whom she sent riot police in to get rid of from the campus the day before. Students did not threaten her by any means, they just sit in darkness on their own campus, three blocks long along the side of walkways between the media room and Ms. Katehi's SUV, in 'eerily silence'. When Ms. Katehi finally collected her courage to walk the walk, no sound could be heard, not even a cough.

Anyone who thinks she can continuously lead the campus must be blind.

As pointed out by the letter from the Davis Faculty Association, Ms. Katehi should have foreseen the brutality when she sent in the riot police on students.

Police were trained and reinforced daily on the belief that they were fighting the worse criminals in the world, thus must act accordingly. It is the same rational that you do not send in soldiers on civil matters as a soldiers' first instinct would be to pull the trigger. You can blame them, but you can't expect them not to be 'trigger-happy' because that was how they has been trained on daily basis. Ms. Katehi's decision to use riot police against students under her care was a loss of judgment and 'gross failure of leadership'. Therefore, she must go.

Ms. Katehi is a liar. Even after the video went viral, in an email to the entire campus, she insisted police action was necessary 'make the campus safe for everyone'. Any conscientious sole who have had a glance of the video would beg to differ, as reflected by the international outcry in the days to come. Ms. Katehi has a bigger problem than lying in public, which is her lack of integrity and her ingeniously lack of caring to students, a mandate for any person in the education field. Ms. Katehi may be an excellent researcher or politician, but she is not meant to be an educator.

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