Statement Regarding Report of Independent Investigation of Taser Incident at UCLA
(The following statement regarding the report of the independent investigation was authorized for release by then Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams on July 31, 2007, while still serving in that position; his term expired at midnight on July 31, 2007. Because it was not feasible to release the report and the Abrams statement on July 31, it is being released today, with my approval. —Gene Block, Chancellor)
In November 2006, I pledged that an independent investigation would be conducted of the incident at Powell Library during which a UCLA police officer used a Taser in the course of removing a student who declined to identify himself.
In normal course, after such an event, the UCLA Police Department conducts an investigation of the incident. In addition, at my direction, the university also brought in an outside person to conduct an independent investigation of the event, retaining Merrick Bobb, widely recognized as a leading authority on investigating allegations of police misconduct. He was asked to examine all available evidence related to the incident and to provide recommendations concerning the university's police policies applicable to the use of Tasers. His report is now concluded and is available to the public at www.newsroom.ucla.edu/taserreport (PDF, 6 MB).
After reviewing and analyzing selected Taser and use-of-force policies that were more restrictive than those of the UCLA Police Department, Mr. Bobb made a series of recommendations. Among them are:
· Clarifying the definitions of violent subjects and those displaying aggression and resistance.
· Limiting the use of Tasers to aggressive or violent subjects.
· Prohibiting the use of Tasers on passively resistant subjects and on handcuffed suspects.
· Clarifying the circumstances under which a Taser should be brandished.
I firmly believe that it is important for officers to be provided with carefully drawn, concise policies so that they can respond to incidents appropriately and in a manner that minimizes the use of force. For that reason, I have advised UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross that I support many of the recommended policy changes. Chief Ross is fast-tracking a review of the policy recommendations and has already indicated that he will be making revisions in the four areas outlined above.
As mentioned, at the same time Mr. Bobb was conducting his review, the UCLA Police Department, as part of an established internal affairs procedure for investigating the conduct of its police officers, also retained an outside investigator experienced in law enforcement issues to lead its investigation of the circumstances under which the Taser was used. By law, the internal investigation report must remain confidential, but I can tell you that the report thoroughly reviewed the primary facts of the incident and concluded that there were no policy violations.
The Bobb report reached a contrary conclusion regarding policy violations. I believe that Mr. Bobb's report is also a thorough review of the primary facts of the incident based on the information available to him. I also agree with his policy recommendations.
Having two fact-finders reach different conclusions regarding the same incident is not unusual in the legal system. Reasonable people may disagree regarding the inferences to be drawn from the same set of facts, and the facts may differ if some witnesses testify in one investigation and not in the other.
I want to thank Merrick Bobb for taking on this sensitive task and for producing a report that will be of great help to us. His work has been an important step in the process of reaching a fair, appropriate and just conclusion in this matter and in aiding us on the next steps that should be taken for the benefit of the entire UCLA community.