Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented. On November 18, 2011, University of California, Davis, police officers used pepper spray on students sitting in a line in the midst of a protest and “occupation” on the campus quad. Viral images of the incident triggered immediate and widespread condemnation of the police action. The UC Davis protest focused on and drew strength from widespread discontent among students about the increase in tuition and fees at the University of California. The incident also took place against the backdrop of worldwide student protests, including demonstrations by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which triggered similar events across the nation. These protests presented challenges for all affected universities and municipalities in attempting to balance the goals of respecting freedom of speech, maintaining the safety of both protesters and non-protesters, and protecting the legitimate interests of government and the non-protesting public.
This policy recognizes that the use of force by law enforcement requires constant evaluation. Even at its lowest level the use of force is a serious responsibility. The purpose of this policy is to provide officers of this department with guidelines on the reasonable use of force. While there is no way to specify the exact amount or type of reasonable force to be applied in any situation, each officer is expected to use these guidelines to make such decisions in a professional, impartial, and safe manner. The use of force by law enforcement personnel is a matter of critical concern both to the public and to the law enforcement community. Officers are involved on a daily basis in numerous and varied human encounters and, when warranted, may use force in carrying out their duties.