A California university police chief has been put on administrative leave after the “chilling” use of pepper spray on protesters, caught on video, its chancellor said Monday.
The effective suspension of University of California, Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza came a day after it announced similar measures against two officers seen in the video.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has rejected calls to resign over the incident Friday, in which an officer walked along a line of seated protestors, spraying them in the head with the chemical usually used for dispersing crowds.
“As I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our Quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus,” said Katehi in a statement.
“I take full responsibility for the events… and am extremely saddened by what occurred,” she added.
In a video that has gone viral online, a police officer in riot gear sprayed a yellow-orange mist on protesters seated on the ground in a sweeping motion as he walked back and forth.
Several protesters, who were demonstrating against tuition hikes and were part of a group that had erected more than a dozen tents on campus, were sprayed directly in the face.
A crowd surrounded them and chanted “Shame on You” as they were dragged and pushed away.
Eleven protesters were treated on site for the effects of the pepper spray, while two were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were treated and released, the college said.
“The events last Friday do not represent the UC Davis community we all aspire to be members of,” Katehi said.
“The safety of our students and their ability to express themselves are paramount as we strive to create the best possible learning environment,” she added.
Katehi said Saturday she was forming a task force to investigate the matter but dismissed calls for her to step down.
“The use of the pepper spray as shown on the video is chilling to us all and raises many questions about how best to handle situations like this,” she wrote in a letter to students.