Occupy the Investigation

After the unfortunate pepper spray incident at the University of California, Davis, on November 18 the president of the university system, Mark Yudof, vowed to investigate. He said that he has “reached out to former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton to undertake an independent fact-finding of the pepper spray incident and report back the results… within 30 days.”

Well it turns out it’s not that independent. Bratton is the chairman of the New York-based Kroll Security Group. According to an article by Andrew Price at The Atlantic:

The firm has already done work for the university, including contracts at UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego. The fact that Kroll already benefits from the UC’s business isn’t mentioned in Yudof’s… note (and the University of California doesn’t show up on Kroll’s list of academic clients either).

And then there are various patrimonial conflicts of interest from Kroll’s corporate parentage. Kroll is a subsidiary of Altegrity, Inc., a large risk consulting and security conglomerate. According to the Council of UC Faculty Associations letter, Altegrity helps “financial institutions and governments seeking to head off and defeat both private sabotage and public protest.” I couldn’t find any direct mention of Altegrity’s work on public protests, but it’s safe to assume that many of the firm’s corporate clients are not enthusiastic supporters of the Occupy movement.

In fact, Kroll seems like an odd choice as a company to perform an investigation at all. Kroll has a lot of academic clients, for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be a great source for uncovering injustice or incompetence. It seems to exist to help institutions “design security plans” in order to “reduce their exposure to global threats.”

It also seems to help clients manage the pressure that comes from public criticism. And public criticism is sort of the point of the Occupy protests, isn’t it?

The Council of UC Faculty Associations recommends scrapping Kroll altogether and appointing “a genuinely independent committee with representatives from student, faculty, staff and civil liberties groups.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer