Friday, May 25, 2012

Outsourcing Police Oversight

UCIPD officers begin arresting Irvine 17 protesters outside UCI Chancellor's Office in February 2010. Photograph copyright 2010 Daniel C. Tsang
At least two University of California police departments – UCLA and UC Irvine -- have outsourced their police policy manuals to a private company and one of them, UCIPD, astonishingly, considers the private company that handles police policy manual revisions, as its law firm.

UCI assistant police chief Jeff Hutchison, in an hour-long meeting with UCI history prof. Mark Levine and myself November 21, 2011, kept referring to the private firm, Lexipol, as "our counsel". When I asked did he mean the University Counsel, he said no, the campus counsel is out of the loop. He implied that LLC after its name meant law firm - when in fact it means limited liability company

How about the UCI Chancellor then? Is Michael Drake also out of the chain of command? Oh, he's too busy to look at every police policy, after all there are 434 pages of them was the response. Three hours after our meeting, Drake released online the same use of force, tasering and pepper spraying policies that Hutchison had shown us, and that Drake apparently also just got to see. Note the copyright on the UCI police policies is attributed to Lexipol, LLC.

Why are campus police departments at UC Irvine and UCLA relying on an outside firm – and a private business at that -- for legal advice? Is not the well-paid campus counsel sufficient? Incidentally six chief campus counsels got hefty raises at a recent Regents Meeting. UCI’s University Counsel got a 14.3 percent pay raise, while Davis’ Chief Counsel got a 21.9% raise, They can surely afford to give their police chiefs some legal advice and review their local police procedures. But Hutchison, of course, had an answer: Lexipol knows actual law enforcement practices and implied that the UC Counsel's Office does not.

Lexipol may well do, but constitutional law is what matters, and that is definitely not the domain of a cop or a business formed by former cops. In fact, a Lexipol policy recently got criticized in a federal case that was not at the time resolved. The policy was adopted by the Guadalupe, California, police department with provisions that actually apparently suppressed the police officers' own free speech rights.

In addition, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which certifies police practices, in 2009 denied certification to Lexipol's Daily Training Bulletins as self-paced training, in part because Lexipol was a private business with the bulletins only accessible by paid subscribers. Lexipol appealed the decision, but there is no public record if it was reversed so I do not know if it was reversed.

Lexipol is founded by Bruce Praet, a former Laguna Beach cop turned lawyer who now has made a career defending cops accused of violating the civil rights of citizens. I'm all for giving defendants the best defense, but why should the UC chain of command be ignored and a private business be treated as as the University’s legal counsel?

There is in fact a "Universitywide Police Polices and Administrative Procedures" manual, last reviewed in 2010, with an effective date of January 7, 2011. That manual states that the Office of the UC President is responsible for coordinating certain police services functions, including "police services policies and standards."

But that system-wide policy manual was never mentioned when we met with the UCIPD officials. So the policies outlined there on pepper spray apparently have no impact on actual police work at the campus level.

It has taken some pepper-sprayed students and injured faculty for the UC administrators to realize that they risk losing control over the campus police forces. I hope a review of the state of campus policing will lead not only to more oversight but also to more public accountability. A civilian review board or some such mechanism needs to be established on each campus. An August 18, 2011 "Police Department Oversight Report" from the University of Oregon, which reviewed various models of outside oversight, can serve as a useful starting point. But no doubt the University is not interested in outside or student/faculty review of its police.

A different version of this blog entry has been submitted as a response to a call for comments from the Robinson-Edley Report on the UC police crackdown on student protesters. Deadline for comments is June 8, 2012. -- Daniel C. Tsang.

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