how bad policing & the infamous pepper spray incident happened at Davis

In an incisive  analysis of UC Davis’ investigation into the infamous pepper-spraying incident , titled “Sometimes, When “All the Facts are In,” It’s Worse: The UC-Davis Pepper-Spray Report” by J Brad Hicks (whom I don’t know) provides a textbook example of organizational dysfunction leading to bad policing. The story involves people speaking vaguely and being misinterpreted, higher-ups refusing to listen when they are told that what they want is illegal or impossible, police using a form of pepper spray that is illegal for them to use, and the officer responsible for the pepper spray overtly complaining that the order to clear the crowd was illegal and impossible to enforce before going ahead and trying to enforce it the way he did. The interpretation I drew from Hicks’s description is that the flagrant way Pike acted was perhaps driven as much or more as a protest against the impossible order he was given as hostility to the protesters. In any event, Hicks’s analysis makes for fascinating reading a probably a good classroom example. I have not read the Davis report itself yet, I’ll put that on my agenda for later.

Edit: David Meyer has already blogged about this and reaches similar conclusions.

Here are copies of the URLs for my links  and

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog --Pam Oliver

2 thoughts on “how bad policing & the infamous pepper spray incident happened at Davis”

  1. Orgheads: is there a term for an organizational failure that occurs at every level of the organization as well as at the individual level? Also, is there a different term for the same thing when it goes viral?


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