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Mixed Reactions After Prosecution Efforts at UCLA & UCI Over Shut Down of Pro-Israel Gathering – Part 2

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The media manager at the University of California at Irvine facilitated exploration of the criminal aspect of the incident and quickly assured its police department would investigate and refer the matter to prosecutors. The UCI investigation is still underway. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

(Continued from two weeks ago)

Two California statutes create the system. The California Education Code empowers UC officials to function as jurisdictions unto themselves—as though they were small cities. They can hire their own police departments and exercise discretion on police policy and conduct. Section 92600 states, “The Regents of the University of California are authorized and empowered to appoint one or more persons to be members of the University of California Police Department … [and] are peace officers … upon the campuses of the University of California and an area within one mile of the exterior boundaries of each thereof.”

Section 830.2 of the California Penal Code states: “A member of the University of California Police Department, appointed pursuant to Section 92600 of the Education Code, is a peace officer whose authority extends to any place in the state … specified in Section 92600 of the Education Code.” The law also vests campus officers with “concurrent jurisdiction with local law enforcement agencies.”

Within legal limits, UC police departments function like a private force, answerable to the campus administration, which, in turn, often pivots on the dictates of the college’s public affairs managers. If a university wants to downplay an incident, it can exercise discretion and instruct the police forces to overlook a disruption. If the police departments do not investigate and refer a case to prosecutors, no criminal action will be taken by prosecutors.

Observers believe a built-in conflict of interest and system of unequal justice can rule when publicity-shy media relations managers can give campus police their marching orders.

One Jewish organization president called it “shameful,” adding “a UC campus is not acting ‘neutrally’ when it shields students from prosecution.”

Indeed, at UCLA, the campus administration officials were extremely sensitive to the adverse publicity attending the video of SSI students being harassed. Campus police referred all inquiries to UCLA Media Relations. When this reporter, first contacted Tad Tamberg, senior executive director of media relations at UCLA, he referred to a Letter to the Editor in the campus newspaper and declined to discuss the matter further or answer any questions. At one point when this reporter said, “May I ask a question?” Tamberg snapped back, “No, you may not.”

UCLA campus police, eager to address the offense, repeatedly and apologetically declined to answer any questions, stating they were under specific instructions from Media Relations to refuse to answer. This included even UCLA PD media spokesman. Ironically, the UCLA police manual mandates, in section 505 entitled, “NEWS MEDIA,” that “In accordance with department policy, employees shall make every effort to cooperate and assist members of the news media, using care to ensure that any release of information is not detrimental to the conduct of police operations.”

UCI had a very different response. Its media manager facilitated exploration of the criminal aspect of the incident and quickly assured its police department would investigate and refer the matter to prosecutors. The UCI investigation is still underway.

UCLA’s refusal to refer its students for prosecution or even investigate the crime was thwarted when legal staff at StandWithUs and the Brandeis Center converged on the campus to walk students into the UCLA PD and UCI police stations to file criminal complaints. Filing those complaints forced the police to investigate and then refer the case to prosecutors. Ultimately that included both student and non-student participants.

Whether or not the perpetrators at UCLA or UCI are prosecuted, it seems the reality on the ground at UC campuses has been altered. In the days after Thanksgiving 2018, this writer delivered four consecutive lectures on Israel history at California campuses: UC Davis, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, and UCLA. Despite concerns, no interference or disruption manifested.

The UCLA event was sponsored by a coalition of groups including the same Students Supporting Israel chapter that had been harassed last May. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center attended to kick off the event which was live-streamed. At UCLA, it was a new day. When campus police learned of the event, they took immediate steps to ensure it would proceed with no interference.

Two UCLA PD officers were dispatched to the event itself, both highly trained and deeply conversant with the pro-Israel and Jewish communal scene. A representative of the administration joined the officers. The police and administration declared that, in the event of a disruption, perpetrators would be given one warning to immediately cease and desist; and if they did not, “they will be arrested and charged.” This, coupled with the LA Prosecutor’s watchful eye, combined to insulate the event from criminal disruption.

Thus, thanks to leadership at StandWithUs and the Brandeis Center, and courageous students who stepped forward, combined with intense media scrutiny, the rate of acceleration of anti-Semitism on campus and especially at UC colleges, has been temporarily slowed—at least, slowed for the moment.

Edwin Black is the New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust and Financing the Flames. He can be followed @Edwinblackbook. Anyone with information regarding disruptions at any UC campus may send it confidentially to [email protected]

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