Monday, March 12, 2012

UC Berkeley Tang Center Cooperates with UCPD [Updated]'ve all seen the video. On November 9, UCPD and Alameda County Sheriffs used batons to beat up and arrest students and faculty who were protesting on Sproul Plaza as part of Occupy Cal. In what has become one of the more infamous examples of violence, one cop grabbed English professor Celeste Langan by the hair and threw her to the ground, where she was arrested. But Langan's were not the most serious injuries -- as a result of the attacks, demonstrators suffered everything from nerve damage to broken ribs.

After being beaten up by UC Berkeley's police force (and invited guests), some of these students went to the Tang Center, the university's health center, for treatment. And then this happened:
In the immediate aftermath of the November 9th protests, the UCPD solicited -- and received -- the medical records of protesters who sustained injuries at the hands of the police. These records were released by the UC Berkeley Tang Center and local hospitals without the knowledge or consent of the patients; they were then used to identify protesters. The fact that medical records can be turned over to the UCPD in order to incriminate victims of police violence raises serious questions about the ethics of medical care on the UC-Berkeley campus. As the many videos taken on November 9th show, students and faculty were beaten simply because they were there. When evidence of physical harm at the hands of the police is immediately read as culpability, our university has effectively criminalized protest. By funneling confidential records to the UCPD and outside bodies, our medical system corroborated this view. What university policies allowed such breaches of confidentiality to happen?
Talk about the administration's favorite bureaucratic expression: "health and safety." We already knew that UCPD works closely with other campus institutions, such as the Office of Student Conduct, and also collaborates, as we've seen from the recently filed criminal charges against November 9 protesters, with the Alameda County District Attorney. But now we know they have a working relationship with University Health Services. And this is not necessarily the result of university policy. According to the ACLU, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which you would assume would protect the privacy of your medical records, in fact does no such thing:
Q: Can the police get my medical information without a warrant?

A: Yes. The HIPAA rules provide a wide variety of circumstances under which medical information can be disclosed for law enforcement-related purposes without explicitly requiring a warrant. These circumstances include (1) law enforcement requests for information to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, witness, or missing person (2) instances where there has been a crime committed on the premises of the covered entity, and (3) in a medical emergency in connection with a crime.

In other words, law enforcement is entitled to your records simply by asserting that you are a suspect or the victim of a crime.
This is a very important point, something that anyone involved in any kind of demonstration should keep in mind. By seeking out medical attention, we may be putting ourselves at risk. This is not to say that one should never go to a clinic or a hospital. Not by any means. But it's important to understand the possible consequences. At the same time, this knowledge underscores the importance of street medics, of learning how to heal ourselves and our comrades as best we can.

[Update 1, 8:09pm 3/13]: The ACLU of Northern California has denounced the charges against the November 9 protesters, and further confirms the collusion between UCPD and the UCB health services: "We also know that at least 2 of the students sought medical treatment at a University health facility, which then handed information about them to the alleged assailant, UCPD."

[Update 2, 9:10am 3/16]: And now the Chronicle has followed up: "Tang gave police more than a dozen reports of injuries from Nov. 9, police said. It's what happened afterward that compounded the mistrust, students say. Several of the injured . . . were contacted by police and asked to answer questions about what had happened. Two also received letters from the District Attorney's office that they were being charged with 'resisting' and 'obstructing.'" The Daily Cal has an article too that quotes this post.


  1. Even in the realm of fucked, this is fucked.

  2. this makes me sick to my stomach.....

    think i should go to Tang?

  3. "When evidence of physical harm at the hands of the police is immediately read as culpability, our university has effectively criminalized protest."

    But when the police declare the protest an unlawful assembly, isn't everyone within the area legally subject to arrest, whether they were injured or not? I imagine police got Tang Center records because they weren't interested in arresting lots of people in that kind of environment, they knew they didn't start beating people until an unlawful assembly was declared, so therefore anyone who was hit must have been violating the law, because they were present at an unlawful assembly.

    1. What they got were reports of abuse from the Tang Center, because Tang is required to report to UCPD any case were victims of abuse come in for care. To use this law (which is obviously meant to protect victims of domestic violence and the like) and turn it against the victims is, to say the least, disgusting.

  4. What would Ron Paul say about this?

    1. That they should have gone home and treated themselves. After all, Ron Paul got his medical degree, why can't they? With their own money, of course. So goes the Ron Paul "logic".

  5. response to Anonymous Mar 13, 2012 02:35 PM
    (tried to post as a reply twice, my browser doesn't show successful posting that way, here it is as stand alone comment)

    no, once they have declared unlawful assembly they are required to give people an opportunity to disperse before making arrests.

    furthermore, they must have a good reason (ie there must be significant crimes being committed or reason to suspect such action is imminent) in order to declare unlawful assembly.
    [simply blocking the sidewalk would probably insufficient, blocking a roadway probably is sufficient, actual property damage and physical violence would definitely be sufficient to make such a declaration.]

    most importantly: the police do not have free license to beat or harm people in the course of making an arrest. Force (violence) may only be applied to prevent someone from escaping prior/during/after arrest, or to prevent harm to the arrestee, officers or bystanders. If you are not trying to run and not trying to assault the cop, they can't legally just hit you with the baton in the course of making the arrest. They can put the cuffs/zip-ties on you, obviously, but they cannot strike you simply b/c you've committed an arrestable offense. [seriously, just how dense are you, man? maybe you are an "authoritarian follower" (see the link)
    or maybe you are trolling on behalf of the administration...]

    At the crux of today's revelation (re: Tang center involvement): Most people in our society would presume that one's medical records are confidential, and that the police would have to get a warrant to force a health care provider to turn over records (or that the DA would have to issue a subpoena, or that a judge would have to make an order). Sadly FERPA and HIPPA do not offer the kind of privacy protection one might assume to be codified in the law. What people are finding out today is that the law is written such that UC (and especially UC in conjunction with its police force) have very broad powers under the law to obtain one's medical records. What has reportedly transpired here is probably legal but many persons will find it unethical - that is to say it will be perceived as a breach of trust, an abuse of authority. This is the kind of thing which provokes public outcry and, eventually, leads to changes in the law to reign in the authority of the UC. As this is a matter of federal law it will probably be harder to change than if it were only a matter of state law.

    To reiterate the salient point: if this happened outside of the university setting, the cops would not simply be able to walk in to the hospital and demand people's medical records. By happenstance this event concerns the university, its medical facility and its police force and in this context the authorities are able to obtain such information freely and legally. The privacy protections which exist elsewhere, do not apply here, despite the window dressing that is HIPPA/FERPA and the impression those laws create in the minds of persons who have not looked at the text of said laws.
    ("happenstance" meaning that protests and related injuries occur all the time in non-educational contexts.)


  6. Sack the Cal. campus Chancellor. UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau picks the pockets of Californian students and their parents clean. Birgeneau’s tuition/fee increases rank Cal. as the # 1 most expensive (on all-in-cost) public university. Now UC Berkeley is more expensive than Harvard, Yale.

    UC Berkeley Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) has forgotten he is a public servant, steward of the public money, not overseer of his own fiefdom. Tuition fee increases exceed national average rate of increase; On an all-in-cost Cal. ranked # 1 most expensive public university; Recruits (using California tax $) out of state & foreign affluent $50,600 tuition students who displace qualified instate applicants from Cal; Spends $7,000,000 + for OE consultants to do the work of his management team (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same at 0 cost); When procuring OE consultants failed to receive alternative proposals; Pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for several lectures; Tuition to Return on Investment drops below top 10; QS academic ranking falls below top 10.

    In tough economic times, unpleasant decisions must be made. UC Board of Regents Chair Lansing must oust Chancellor Birgeneau
    Email opinion to
    (The author has 35 years’ consulting, has taught at Cal where he observed the culture & ways of senior management & was not fired)