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UC Davis Pepper-Spray Saga: 10 Years Later

DAVIS (CBS13) — UC Davis shared what's changed since student protestors were pepper-sprayed in the face during a non-violent demonstration 10 years ago.

The incident was made worse when university documents showed the school paid public relations firms $175,000 to scrub the bad press from the internet.

Administrators wouldn't talk to us on camera, but say they've spent the last decade focused on two things: listening and taking action.

Infamous video captured an ugly chapter in UC Davis history as a campus police officer turned his pepper spray on non-violent student protestors as they sat in the campus quad.

Back in 2011, CBS13 was the only TV station in town to gather the footage, which made national headlines.

A university report found the incident "should and could have been prevented."

So what's changed over the last 10 years? A campus police Accountability Board was created to focus on public safety, accountability and information on complaints.

It's the only one of its kind in the UC system.

UC Davis police have also reallocated funding and reconfigured staffing. A Campus Safety Oversight Committee is now in place, too, to help improve communication and transparency. An Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been added, along with a task force on affordable student housing, food security and mental health.

Positive changes that were a decade in the making, which turned this public relations disaster into lessons learned.

The UC Davis police officer responsible for pepper-spraying the students was fired. As part of a settlement, the students who were pepper-sprayed received $30,000.

In a statement released on Thursday, UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May also highlighted the changes the school has implemented since the incident.

"Our campus was tested 10 years ago. Like any test, it revealed our collective character — one that ultimately exhibited a capacity to unite to figure out how to be and do better. The improvements we've made did not happen overnight, nor were they easy or without disagreement, but we persevered," May, who was not the chancellor at the time of the incident, wrote.

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