In the wake of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s decision to send in the pepper-spray goon squad, the high administration has resorted to that old stand-by of deferred accountability: the task force.
Here at UC Davis, Vice Chancellor John Meyer is heading an “independent and comprehensive fact-finding investigation” of the events on Friday, Nov. 18. One of the putative goals of the Meyer task force is to find out how and why the arrests and pepper spraying happened. Meyer’s involvement is a clear conflict of interest, because he is the administrator responsible for overseeing the campus police and therefore part of the chain of command that supposedly malfunctioned. Remember that Katehi’s unverified claim is that she expressly forbade the use of physical force. She has also pointed out that the police are Meyer’s responsibility, in an effort to distance herself from the events on the Quad. So why is Meyer given the task of investigating himself and his boss?
[UPDATE: It's not entirely clear yet whether Meyer is on the task force or whether he simply initiated it. Either way, his role in the decision to forcibly remove protesters should be scrutinized by truly independent investigators, not by the task force of insiders being assembled.]
The chancellor has also contracted two outside firms to ensure the independence of the investigation. Guess what? Cory Golden of the Davis Enterprise reports that the investigators have close ties to UC Davis.
Van Dermyden Allison Law Corp. of Sacramento’s seven-member team includes two attorneys who have worked at UCD, according to the firm’s website.
Shareholder Deborah Allison worked as an attorney in the general counsel’s office at UCD from 2000 to January 2007.
UCD spokesperson Claudia Morain said the attorneys’ past employment does not constitute a conflict of interest.
As far as Morain goes, there are serious questions about her credibility. Apart from that, the general counsel’s office exists to limit the university’s liability in cases like this. It seems obvious that a former employee of the general counsel (who just got a raise!) cannot be expected to conduct an unbiased inquiry into an incident which civil right attorneys are investigating and for which the university will probably be held liable.
The UC task forces convened by Mark Yudof are no less problematic. The conflicts of interest involved with the commision to review police protocol and the task force to investigate police brutality at UC Davis have been fairly well documented. The Council of UC Faculty Associations has objected to the appointing of former LAPD chief and professional protest buster William Bratton to lead a team charged with fact-finding about police misconduct during the break-up of a protest. CUCFA points to Bratton’s ties to Kroll Security, a company that specializes in “protecting” multinational corporations from public criticism and targeted civil disobedience.
By deepening UC’s links to Kroll, [Yudof] would be illustrating the kinds of connection between public higher education and Wall Street that the Occupy UC movement is protesting. Kroll’s parent company, Altegrity, provides data-mining, intelligence and on-the-ground security to financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest. In addition, Altegrity’s parent company, Providence Private Equity, is a major global investor in for-profit higher education companies that benefit from the decline of publicly funded higher education.
We already know that Kroll has provided security services to at least three UC campuses for the past several years. This in itself would disqualify Mr. Bratton from participating in the investigation [Yudof] propose[s], even if the role of Kroll and its affiliated companies in defending the financial sector against OWS did not raise further questions about its pro-Wall Street and pro-privatization bias.
To summarize, an “independent” investigation of police brutality in suppressing an anti-police and anti-privatization protest is being led by a former police chief whose current firm works to suppress opposition to privatization.
Additionally, thanks to @queeroccupy, we discover that Kroll Security is at the center of major spying scandals in Brazil and Ecuador, where Chevron CEO John Watson is accused of authorizing Kroll to conduct “an illegal spy operation. . .to undermine the rule of law.” John Watson used Kroll to spy on plaintiffs who sought damages against Chevron for its “deliberate dumping of 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste into Amazonian ecosystems.”
Chevron CEO John Watson is a member of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s Board of Advisors.