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UC Davis looks to get past pepper-spray incident with new police chief

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REUTERS/Brian Nguyen
University of California Davis students covered in pepper spray sit during an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis
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The University of California has replaced a campus police chief who resigned over her role in the pepper-spraying last fall of peacefully protesting students allied with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Matt Carmichael, a lieutenant for the UC Davis Police Department since joining the force in 2002, was sworn in as chief on Thursday by Chancellor Linda Katehi, who herself has come under fire for her handling of the Occupy demonstrations.

Carmichael had overseen patrol operations on the campus, located near Sacramento, and was the department's main spokesman. He had served as acting chief since former Chief Annette Spicuzza was placed on leave on November 21 in the aftermath of the pepper-spraying incident.

Spicuzza resigned on Wednesday. In a statement to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, she said her decision came “after heartfelt discussions with my family.”

Spicuzza and other police officials and campus administrators, including Katehi, were sharply criticized in a report issued by an investigative panel last week that said they showed poor judgment and used excessive force in forcing students to remove a protest encampment on campus.

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Video footage widely seen on television and the Internet showed campus police dousing a cluster of protesters seated on the ground. The confrontation led to the suspension of Spicuzza and two police officers, and briefly thrust the normally quiet, mostly apolitical UC Davis campus to the forefront of nationwide anti-Wall Street “Occupy” protests.

“As the university does not want this incident to be its defining moment, nor do I wish for it to be mine,” Spicuzza said in her statement emailed to the newspaper. “I believe in order to start the healing process, this chapter of my life must be closed.”

In the immediate aftermath of the clash, many faculty and students called for the resignation of Katehi, who publicly apologized to a crowd of jeering students three days later. University of California President Mark Yudof warned the heads of all 10 UC campuses, “We cannot let this happen again.”

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