From the Davis Vanguard:
Following the controversy over the university’s Student Activist Team back in April and the admission and apology by the university for a plainclothed UC Davis Police Officer misleading student activists and lying about her identity, the Vanguard received a tip that back in 2003, the university developed and maintained a “Police Intelligence Database.”
The Vanguard, after a series of denials, eventually got the University to admit that a “small” database existed back in 2003 and 2004. It was developed to track activists in 2003 in advance of a US Department of Agriculture Conference that they claimed was likely to be protested by many out of areas activists, some of whom they claimed threatened violence and disorder.It was the first major conference following 9/11 and it also potentially featured a small number of activists whom UCD Police feared had rioted in Seattle in the 2000 WTO (World Trade Organization) Conference protests.The university maintains that the database never was completed and that names, other than initial names, were never entered. However, the university has denied disclosure of the database to allow the Vanguard to confirm the university’s claims, under a law enforcement exception in the Public Records Act.The Vanguard continues to fight for disclosure of the database to put the issue to rest once and for all.
The journey to this admission offers a fascinating study of a university infrastructure where, quite literally, the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing or had done just a few years before. As a result, caution must be taken before accepting the official story.
The initial response back on May 6 was again flat denial. [Claudia Morain, the News Service Director,] told the Vanguard, “The campus police department does not keep a database on protesters or other activists. The university respects, embraces and encourages free speech and civil dissent, and recognizes that ‘taking names’ would chill such speech. We don’t do it.”However, this too would prove premature.The Vanguard would speak to Greg Murphy. Greg Murphy worked briefly for the UC Davis police department before becoming police chief at Sierra College and then moving on as a POST (Police Officer Standars and Training) Instructor.
Mr. Murphy spoke to the Vanguard briefly and, while he did not remember a lot, he confirmed the existence of the database. To his recollection, it was more of a training exercise than a database and said it was not even completed when he left in 2004.
Based on that information, the Vanguard was able to go back to Claudia Morain and explain that, for the first time, we had independent confirmation in addition to having seen a screen shot of the interface portion of the database.
Based on that information, Claudia Morain arranged a meeting between UC Davis Chief Annette Spicuzza, herself and Andy Fell of the UC Davis News Service, myself and one of my assistants. For the first time in that meeting, which was largely off the record, Chief Spicuzza confirmed the existence of the database, informing the Vanguard that she was unaware of its existence until two days prior.
Following the meeting, Claudia Morain sent to the Vanguard a formal statement in which she thanked the Vanguard for its commitment to fairness and accuracy.
“As I wrote previously, the university does not maintain a database on protestors, activists or others who are peacefully exercising their constitutional rights,” the statement read.
She continued, “However, UC Davis police have now discovered a small database apparently established in 2003. It has not been used since at least 2004, and the current police chief was not aware of its existence. Police commanders are clear that no such database is in use now, and officers do not ‘take names’ or gather information on protesters who are lawfully exercising their right to free speech.”
“The University of California, Davis, affirms the right to freedom of expression in our community and the right of every individual to think and speak as dictated by personal belief, to express any idea, and to disagree with another’s point of view, limited only by university regulations governing time, place and manner,” she concluded.
That left a few loose ends. The Vanguard spoke briefly with former Police Chief Calvin Handy, who was the chief at that time. He had a vague recollection of the project but not many of the details.
However, last week, the Vanguard met with Captain Joyce Souza to gain a better understanding of her initial response. Again, Claudia Morain and Andy Fell from the News Service joined us.
Captain Souza explained that she had not remembered the database or the project, but due to our very explicit and precise description, she believed there may be something to the claim.
She had a tech person search the computer and, sure enough, they found the database as described.
She then remembered the details that no one else seemed to have known. The effort came out of a USDA Conference in the Davis and Sacramento area that would feature 187 countries. It was in 2003 and was the first conference of its type since 9/11.
She created a team of people of people, hoping to compile information from websites and to share across jurisdictions and agencies.
She claims that some activists from the Seattle WTO Protests were threatening to making it into another WTO event where a small number of protesters rioted and damaged property. They also had concerns about Animal Rights activists and the desire to track them.
However, she said that no information was entered other than five initial names, two of which were police officers in testing the system. It was never used and they never completed it.
She stated categorically that the university has no database tracking activists.
At this point, the key question is the release of the database to verify claims by the university that it has not been used. Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the university has a more recent database tracking protesters, other than their explicit denial.Claudia Morain once again concluded: “We would never knowingly violate people’s privacy, and making this database public could do that.”While we understand and appreciate that concern, we are less interested in seeing the specific names than verifying the lack of use of the database. We believe there are ways around their privacy concerns.
At this point, our conclusion is that those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Thus there remains that kernel of doubt.
We will go further than the Vanguard here and insist that the doubt generated here cannot be expressed by the word “kernel.” A kernel is a small thing, and UCPD has a history of big lies, some of the most recent being Corporal Timothy Zuñiga’s lies uncovered during the farcical student conduct hearings at Berkeley and Officer Joanne Zekany’s whopper about her identity and occupation when asked about her presence at a student protest, a lie which led to the FOIA request that revealed the presence of the infamous “Student Activism Support Team” here at UC Davis. Claudia Morain, although her title might lead some to believe that she is a journalist, has proved herself to be the administration’s paid propaganda mouthpiece, as evidenced by her laughable insistence on Twitter that university business was proceeding normally during the massive September 2009 faculty/student/worker walkout. Morain is also one of the people to whom the administration’s spy team reports. Given the lack of credibility of those insisting that no protester database is in use, there is no reason to believe them.