Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move protesters (photo: Wayne Tilcock, Associated Press)
It is obviously pretty traumatic to be pepper-sprayed by campus police while peacefully protesting, but demonstrators may not be the only ones psychologically damaged by such an encounter and its aftermath.
John Pike, a former campus police officer at the University of California, Davis before he was fired in July 2012 for his actions eight months earlier, has filed for workers compensation. Pike and at least one other officer pepper-sprayed students and other Occupy UC Davis protesters who were seated with locked arms. The protesters had ignored police orders to disperse.
Pike’s hearing over his claim of “nervous system/psychiatric” is scheduled for August 13 before the Division of Workers' Compensation in the Department of Industrial Relations.
A video of the pepper spray incident went viral on the Internet, prompting international criticism of the confrontation, and the university’s handing of it and the aftermath. An internal affairs investigation initially found that Pike had acted reasonably and recommended any punishment not exceed a demotion or suspension, according to the Sacramento Bee, but UC Davis Police Chief Matthew Carmichael fired him anyway.
The UC system later agreed to pay damages of $30,000 to each of the 21 UC Davis students and alumni after a civil suit was filed.
The Bee reported in August of last year that Pike received 10,000 text messages, 17,000 emails and “numerous items being ordered delivered to his home” as a result of the publicity. Hackers posted his personal information online and he was reportedly the subject of death threats.
Although Pike’s name became known almost immediately, reports of the incident commissioned by the university did not include names of other officers involved. The Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee sued to get the names and won, despite resistance by the police officers’ union. The newspapers won in Alameda County Superior Court and last week the 1st Appellate District of the state Court of Appeal agreed. The names will remain confidential until an expected appeal to the state Supreme Court is completed.