UC Davis paid two consultants $230,256 to mount its internal affairs investigation on last November’s pepper-spraying of student protesters — an investigation that produced recommendations Chief Matt Carmichael opted to overrule.
UCD paid Van Dermyden Allison Law Corp. of Sacramento $148,349 and Yorba Linda-based Norman A. Traub Associates $81,907 to investigate the Nov. 18 arrest of 10 Occupy UC Davis protesters and pepper-spraying of about a dozen more, the university revealed this week in response to a public records request.
The internal affairs investigators found the viral video of Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying seated, unarmed protesters on the Quad “disturbing,” but concluded his use of pepper spray was “reasonable under the circumstances,” according to a published report in the Sacramento Bee based on documents it had obtained, including the 76-page confidential internal affairs report.
Based on the investigation, a UCD police captain and the campus chief compliance officer recommended to Carmichael an “exonerated finding” on use of force, but concluded that Pike’s ”serious errors of judgment and deficiencies of leadership” warranted demotion or suspension, the newspaper said.
In an April 27 letter, Carmichael informed Pike of his intention to fire him, accusing Pike of going against then-Chief Annette Spicuzza’s wishes to use “a minimum amount of force,” objecting to her request that officers not wear a helmet or carry batons and performing “poorly” when he took over control of the scene from another lieutenant.
Carmichael reportedly emphasized the damage to the department and campus, and noted that Pike told investigators he would use pepper spray again in similar circumstances.
UCD acknowledged last month that Pike and a second officer it has declined to name over safety concerns were no longer employed by the department, but revealed no more, citing state law protecting police personnel records.
The Enterprise has named Alexander Lee as the second officer involved, based on videos and photos from the scene and campus documents. The Bee, which is suing for the release of names of officers involved, did not address the fate of a second officer.
Carmichael did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Columbia College of Missouri criminal justice professor Michael Lyman, an expert in police practices and procedures who has experience as an investigator and as a police instructor, said the potential value of the internal affairs investigation goes beyond personnel matters.
“Those investigations are designed to re-evaluate practices and procedures and policies for the department,” Lyman said. “They’re more or less an opportunity for the department to take a look at itself and pull itself up by the boot straps.”
Lyman said that if Carmichael did fire Pike, whom The Enterprise has been unable to reach for comment, any previous black marks in Pike’s personnel file may have been a factor.
“This could have been the last straw or he could have been the sacrificial lamb,” said Lyman, who added that his own take on the video evidence and press reports of the incident led him to believe pepper spray should not have been used.
“Nationwide, many officers don’t want to get a little bit of dirt under their fingernails, so they use force options that are inappropriate under the circumstances. You see that with Tasers all the time,” Lyman added.
Though he said the number of the university investigations may have gone beyond what the incident warranted, Lyman credited UCD for turning to outside investigators and for sending a message to the department.
“The administration has to take action or you risk ratification of conduct — the rank and file gets the message that not only will there not be punishment for this conduct, but that policies have no teeth,” he said.
The cost of the internal affairs investigation brings the amount the University of California system or UCD has paid on consultants since the pepper spray incident to more than $686,000.
— Reach Cory Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden