The chancellor of University of California, Davis is forming a task force to investigate the circumstances of the widely-circulated video that shows a police officer blasting pepper spray into the faces of seated protesters.
UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi called the video images out of the northern California university "chilling" and "sad and really very inappropriate," even as other law enforcement members have come forward to defend the officer's actions.
In the video, recorded Friday, an officer methodically pepper-sprays a line seated protesters who flinch and cover their faces but remain passive with their arms interlocked as onlookers shriek and scream out for the officer to stop.
Ten protesters were arrested, including nine students, before officers retreated. Nine students hit by pepper spray were treated at the scene and two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said.
As the images were circulated on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Saturday, the university's faculty association called on Katehi to resign, saying in a letter there had been a "gross failure of leadership."
Though she expressed sadness at a Saturday news conference, Katehi defended her leadership and said she had no plans to resign.
"I do not think that I have violated the policies of the institution," she said. "I have worked personally very hard to make this campus a safe campus for all."
After the news conference, Katehi walking to an SUV past a group of students nearly three blocks long who, in a coordinated effort, stood completely silent, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The protest was held in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, in solidarity with protesters at the University of California, Berkeley who were hit by police with batons on Nov. 9 and to express anger over recent University of California tuition hikes.
The university has declined to release the names of the officers involved.
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene and will be reviewed.
"The students had encircled the officers," she said Saturday. "They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out."
Many Twitter and Facebook comments supported the students and criticized the response after the video garnered international attention.
"Stomach churning video of police using pepper spray on seated anti-Wall Street protesters in Davis, Calif.," actress Mia Farrow wrote in a retweet of the video.
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But a law enforcement official who viewed the clip called the use of force "fairly standard police procedure."
Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.
"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them."
Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.
"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure," Kelly said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.