Public Records Reveal University Surveillance of Student Organizers

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    Photo courtesy of Tom Pazo.

    Story updated 3/3/2011 at 7:30pm

    Fourth-year Tom Pazo recently received a public records document he requested of the university about seven months ago. The returned request consists of two pages: an invoice and official record of purchase that detail $6,000 spent by UCSC to contract private investigator Scott H. Newby to photo and video document a student demonstration on May 18 and 19 last year.

    According to the invoice, UCSC contracted Newby for 24 hours at $100 per hour. His services included post-production and transportation fees from San Jose to Santa Cruz. The “demonstration” on May 18 and 19 to which the invoice refers was a UCSC Strike Committee-led event entitled “Walk Out to Your Education.”

    The Strike Committee is an open collective of undergraduates, graduate students, workers and professors who volunteer and organize in the defense of public education. The event was organized as an alternative way to educate the campus about the unstable budget situation.

    “It was basically a really mellow, just student-teaching demonstration, attended in total throughout the day by about no more than 150 students at any given time,” said Pazo, who attended the event last May. “It was met by heavy, heavy police presence … A complete police barricade, a line of officers blocking the road, sheriffs on ATVs, trucks, four-wheelers, all sorts of things. And they were also photographing students.”

    At the May 18 and 19 event, Pazo noticed an unidentifiable man with a telescopic lens camera snapping photographs of event participants from behind car doors and trees. When Pazo and Spanish lecturer Maria Morris, who was also present at the event, walked up to the unidentified photographer, he was reluctant to tell them why he was there and who he worked for, Pazo said. The only information Pazo received was the man’s name, Scott Newby. Pazo had a hunch that UCSC had contracted the man, so he decided to request a public record of the transaction.

    Newby did not respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting an interview.

    Pazo also noticed police vans from UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley present at the event.

    His public record request inquired about UCSC’s authorization of out-of-department police from other campuses on May 18 and 19.

    A portion of Pazo’s public records request, including the invoice and receipt of purchase of Newby’s services, was returned Feb. 15. The rest of his request has not yet been unfulfilled.

    The heavy police presence was expected on May 18, as it coincided with the Amgen Tour de California bicycle race, but organizers and faculty say the continued police presence on May 19, and the presence of an outsourced photographer, was unwarranted.

     

    Photo courtesy of Tom Pazo.

    Safety vs. Profiling

    Students and faculty expressed concerns that photographs taken at organized events such as May 18 and 19 walk-out and teach-out would be used to profile and possibly reprimand students.

    Morris, a Spanish language lecturer, has taught at UCSC since 1989. Morris held class at the May 18 and 19 event to express her solidarity, and spoke with Scott Newby at the event alongside Pazo about his presence and purpose in photographing students present.

    “I was real upset that [Newby] was hiding behind a tree across the street taking pictures of my class,” Morris said. “I was pissed … because I wouldn’t expose students to any danger. I’m there to support them … Some of them were quite upset [that their picture was being taken].”

    Director of university relations Jim Burns said in an e-mail that photographs such as the ones taken by Newby are not used to profile students.

    “Rather, they are taken in the event that there is activity that violates university policies or regulations and/or the law,” Burns said in the e-mail.

    Leo Ritz-Barr is an undergraduate at UCSC and organizer with the Strike Committee. Last year he was cited with seven violations and assigned 40 hours of community service following the November 2009 occupation of the Kerr Hall administrative building. At the Kerr Hall protest, many students, including Ritz-Barr, were retrospectively identified and cited with violations based on photographs taken at the event.

    Ever since the Kerr Hall occupation drew attention to Ritz-Barr, campus police officers greet him by first name whenever they see him on campus, Ritz-Barr said.

    “The cops call me Leonard,” Ritz-Barr said. “Nobody calls me Leonard. My parents don’t call me Leonard, no teachers call me Leonard. Only administrators who don’t know who I am, or only know me through cameras and pictures of my photo ID, call me Leonard … It’s scary as fuck.”

    Pazo said that on May 18 he experienced a similar example of what he called UCSC “police intimidation tactics.”

    He said Augie Zigon, police captain of the UCSC Police Department, approached him at the event.

    “He asked me, ‘Are you Tom Pazo?’ and I was kind of taken aback, like, ‘Who wants to know?’” Pazo said. “He was asking if I was an organizer, asking what was going to happen during the day.”

    Pazo attended the event as a participant, but was not an organizer.

    The UCSC Police Department did not respond to interview requests.

    Ritz-Barr said it was fiscally irresponsible of the administration to hire Newby to photograph students.

    He said Adam Snook, coordinator for the Colleges and University Housing Service’s Community Safety Program and the Emergency Preparedness Program, could have provided the same services.

    Snook worked for 15 years, “in the private sector as a private investigator and corporate safety and security professional,” according to his profile on the UCSC website.

    “Snook already stalks protesters at all events, and takes photos of us,” Ritz-Barr said. “[So does] Augie Zigon, the head of UCPD up here. Why couldn’t Snook have pulled out one of his nice little cameras from when he was a private investigator? Did we really need to outsource labor that we could have done in house?”

    Snook declined to comment. He said in an e-mail that he would be on vacation for several days and that the matter was “outside of [his] realm of expertise.”

    Zigon did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.

    Jim Burns, director of university relations at UCSC, said the UCSC Police Department hired Newby as part of planning for what was originally billed as a “three-day shutdown” of the campus.

    “[Newby] was hired as a videographer/photographer,” Burns said in the e-mail. “He was not hired as a private investigator. This decision was based on legitimate law-enforcement concerns.”

    Organizers of the May 18 and 19 event said they informed the administration ahead of time of their plans for the event.

    “The administration was made aware with several e-mails that May 18 and 19 was not planned as a hard strike,” Pazo said.

    Burns said photographs taken at events like May 18 and 19 are attached to a case file documenting an event.

    “In the absence of the suspicion of criminal activity, the photos are purged after one year,” Burns said in the e-mail.

    The following document is an excerpt from private investigator Scott H. Newby’s invoice to UC Santa Cruz. It was released as part of fourth-year Tom Pazo’s public records request. It details Newby’s video and photo services on May 18 and 19, 2010. | Services Rendered: 24 hours @ $100 an hour per Camera Operator on site including 2-hour roundtrip travel from San Jose, and 12 hours @ $100 an hour for photo & video postproduction services (5/18/10 - Photo/video documented demonstration at West entrance; 5/14/10 [sic] - Photo documented demonstration at main entrance, and on standby to video document with 2 camera units; 5/24/10 - Processed images, including cropping & enlarging, and printed 32 proof sheets; 5/26/10 - Uploaded video to computer and made DVDs and copy tapes in duplicate from videos) | $6,000.00

    Allocation of Funds

    Because of California’s budget crisis, in the past couple of years the UC system has seen fee hikes, faculty and staff layoffs, and educational cuts to programs including entire majors. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in January a $500 million reduction of UC funds.

    Literature graduate student and teaching assistant Brian Malone compared the university’s spending of $6,000 to what it could pay for at UCSC.

    “Six thousand dollars — that’s more than members of my unit, the [teaching assistant] union, get paid to TA for a quarter,” Malone said.

    Six thousand dollars is the amount necessary to fund most UCSC lecture courses for one quarter.

    Burns said the university’s spending on a photographer for this event was necessary.

    “It made sense to contract for such services for several reasons,” Burns said in an e-mail. “The university police department does not have the expertise to provide such services. Using a police officer to provide such services prevents the officer from fulfilling his or her law-enforcement duties, and if such documentation ultimately was needed, it made sense to contract with someone who had professional experience in that area.”

    Malone said the photographer’s presence was a show of force to intimidate students.

    “The issue wasn’t just this photographer, this outsider — although he was belligerent — but it was also the huge UC police presence,” Malone said. “It’s one thing to talk about $6,000 spent on this outside photographer — they must have spent tens of thousands of dollars on importing UC police from other campuses and putting them all out there.”

    Pazo said the public records he received demonstrate a larger issue regarding UCSC’s attitude towards and allocation of funds.

    “What this says is it’s a complete joke and lie to say that there’s not enough money or funding,” Pazo said.

     

    Public Record Release

    In a recent study, the group Californians Aware evaluated all UCs and CSUs for their compliance with public records requests. With 40 points out of 100, UCSC received a failing grade.

    Pazo made his original public records request last year on July 28. Seven months later, he received the main portion of the documents he requested.

    An agency must determine within 10 days whether to comply with the request and must inform the requester of its decision at that time, according to the California Public Records Act.

    “If possible, records deemed subject to disclosure should be provided at the time the determination is made,” according to the attorney general’s official summary of the Public Records Act. “If immediate disclosure is not possible, the agency must provide the records within a reasonable period of time, along with an estimate of the date that the records will be available.”

    The request was formally acknowledged on August 6, in compliance with the law, Jim Burns said in an e-mail.

    Pazo said the seven-month response time is unacceptable for a public institution.

    “It’s still a very slow response,” Pazo said. “That calls into question [the administration’s] prioritizing of public records request. I think it took longer than it should, whether or not it was in compliance with the law.”

    Pazo did not receive responses for up to two weeks in between each e-mail.

    “I did follow the proper procedure,” Pazo said. “[Specificity] is sometimes maybe a problem for some public records requests, but I asked for very specific things. I asked for receipt of purchase, purchase order regarding the hiring of a private investigator by the name of Scott Newby on May 18 and 19, 2010. Very specific. These things do take time, but there’s really no excuse … And this is just a drop in the bucket of all [UCSC’s] lack of accountability.”

     

    Demanding Accountability

    A portion of Pazo’s public records request is still not fulfilled.

    The unsatisfied portion asks for a “record for the authorization of out of department police from other UC campuses on May 18 and 19, 2010,” as Pazo and others noted members of the UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara police present. Pazo received an e-mail from Denise Dolezal, information practices and policy analyst for the Chancellor’s Office, on Feb. 15. Dolezal said the administration continues to search for this record.

    Lt. Alex Yao of the UC Berkeley Police Department said he did not remember the May 18 and 19 event, but that it is not uncommon for the UCSC Police Department to be assisted by UC Berkeley Police Department, which is one of the largest UC police departments.

    The UC police department chief of one campus sends a request for more police officers from other campuses, said Sgt. Matt Bowman of UC Santa Barbara Police Department, who could not recall the event either. Whoever has personnel to assist responds.

    Malone and several others said the amount of police attention on May 19 was unwarranted.

    “Part of it was a pure waste of resources on the part of the administration, and a waste of money, presumably tens of thousands of dollars in overtime and travel for other UC police to come [to UCSC],” Malone said.

    UC campus police departments have different contracts between each other regarding which campus funds, transportation and fees to bring in backup police forces.

    “It’s more common for the requesting school to pay for the other police department’s transportation,” Bowman said. “It does cost money so it’s not to be taken lightly.”

    Malone said the police presence was an unnecessary provocation that was incongruous with the peaceful atmosphere of the event.

    “By what stretch of the imagination do you need 18 uniformed police for a poetry reading?” Malone said.

    One of the things students and staff have demanded all along is transparency from the UC, he said.

    “To an extent the [administration’s] message is, ‘Shut up and write us a check,’” Malone said. “There’s nothing we can do, there’s nothing you can do, so just keep your head down, keep going to classes, keep writing us the checks for your tuition. And we don’t know the extent to which what they did has made students think twice about doing anything out of the ordinary on this campus, even if it’s just attending a poetry reading at the base of campus.”

    • SNOOK is the ex-private investigator!?!  You could not have a made a better name for a creeper with a telescopic lens…  I like to watch.