I woke up this morning to an email telling me that the November 9 report had been released. That was it. Two sentences.
Dear Campus community:
The Police Review Board Report on Nov 9, 2011 is being published today on our campus homepage. You can link to the report and a statement from me in response to the report at http://www.berkeley.edu .
Robert J. Birgeneau
The report, and the chancellor’s response, are as difficult to access as possible without being super-obvious about it. First you have to go to the homepage, then you have to look around a bit because it’s not above the fold, it’s one of the tiny news stories down at the bottom. If you want to access any of the information it’s in PDF format, which adds a little inconvenience and makes it harder for search engines to find the information. You will need to search to find it, of course, because I presume like any news article it will be removed from the home page within a week or so. Moreover, you’ll notice that Birgenau’s note above doesn’t even include the URL of the news story, just a link to the homepage so if you don’t go looking for it right away you’ve got even more digging to do. (No digging here: feel free to read the police review report and Birgenau’s weak response in full.)
I happen to find this embarrassing. As a member of the Berkeley community, I’m ashamed that the administration is too craven to publicly own up to its mistakes and release the information about November 9th like it would any other piece of important news. But it’s pretending that the police brutality didn’t happen. It’s pretending that Professor Celeste Langan wasn’t pulled around by her hair, that my friend’s rib wasn’t cracked by a truncheon held by a UCPD officer, that my other housemates didn’t spend the week afterwards with breathing difficulties and torsos black and blue as though they had been in a car crash.
To paraphrase Utah Phillips, these people have names and faces and addresses. Robert Birgenau, George Breslauer, John Wilton, Harry LeGrande, Dan Mogulof, I’m calling you out. You are cowards. You should be ashamed of yourselves not only for allowing this to happen to the students you are supposed to educate and protect, but also for trying to avoid owning up to your dereliction of duty and incompetence.
And to be perfectly honest, this report isn’t particularly damning. Much of it covers bureaucratic failure:
While there was a group of campus officials with clear civilian oversight of the UCPD (specifically, the CMT [Crisis Management Team], whose creation was in response to the Brazil Report), that group did not have a clear chain of command nor did it supervise important details of the UCPD’s activities throughout the day. As well, neither the CMT nor the UCPD adequately communicated with each other or with the protestors on Sproul Plaza. And after the afternoon’s first use of force, and subsequent complaints, disconcertingly neither the UCPD nor the CMT specifically reconsidered the use of batons before again employing them in the evening. Significantly different from prior events, on November 9 the vast majority of members of the CMT were not new to their jobs, suggesting the campus leadership’s handling of the November 9 protests was not better than the past, even with the benefit of greater experience. (9)
They don’t even condemn the police brutality which characterized the day:
Videos of this encounter show that protestors who were pulled off the line were sometimes pulled off by their head and neck and some were thrown rather roughly onto Mario Savio Steps. These maneuvers appeared to be matters of expediency, and none of these protestors seemed to have been mistreated after they were pulled through the police line. (18)
Videos show some officers using batons on the back, sides, or buttocks of two protestors who appeared to be on their knees facing away from the officers and covering themselves for safety. The campus norms, PRT Principles, as well as UCPD § DR200, seem to make such police action improper. (19)
Improper? Improper? Not only that, but the review board actually praises this group of officers for not using their batons, because dragging people around by the head and neck and throwing them on the ground is less dangerous than truncheoning people near their vital organs.
Some members of the committee do not think that pulling protestors by their hair is consistent with campus norms; others believe it is effective and creates little risk of permanent injury. (21)
What’s damning is not the report. What’s damning is the fact finding which reveals how student protestors were treated, and the UC Berkeley administration’s total inability to even get a handle on the situation, let alone control it or protect anyone.
For the first time, they had helmets on, face screens down, and 36” batons out, held with both hands across their bodies. Some of the officers had large guns drawn, which were apparently filled with paint rounds to mark fleeing subjects. (17)
The police here used batons almost immediately and far more consistently. Within 20 seconds of arriving at the protestor line, at least five officers used tip strikes in an effort to break up the protestors’ linked arms or to move their line back. A tip strike is accomplished by holding the long baton like a shovel and thrusting it forward into the protestor. This series of baton strikes by some officers lasted continuously for 50 seconds, and included push strikes and pushing with hands in addition to tip strikes, which were the most consistent tactic. As with subsequent periods of baton use, almost all of the tip strikes visible on the videos are made to the midsections of protestors — in their stomachs, ribs, chests, arms, sides, and outer thighs. Some of the protestors wore backpacks to protect themselves, and police sometimes struck those. These areas fall outside the prohibited areas mentioned in police regulations, but may include some of the areas not recommended for baton strikes. (20)
It is not clear from the footage whether the arrestee is squirming or resisting arrest either. What is clear from the video is that at least one of the officers repeatedly struck the protestor with the tip of his baton while the protestor was lying on the ground. (25)
This stain isn’t going away any time soon, despite the administration’s attempts to wash it out.
- Stephen Colbert