Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pepper-spray cop gets $38K in workers’ comp


UC Davis police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprays student protesters who were blocking a pathway on the UCD Quad on Nov. 18, 2011. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

From page A1 | October 24, 2013 | 20 Comments

The former campus cop seen in a viral video pepper-spraying student protesters will receive workers’ compensation totaling $38,056.

John Pike, 40, of Roseville, reportedly suffered depression and anxiety brought on by death threats he and his family received after the Nov. 18, 2011, confrontation at an Occupy UC Davis encampment.

Administrative Law Judge Harter approved the settlement agreement between Pike and the University of California on Oct. 16.

“This case has been resolved in accordance with state law and processes on workers’ compensation,” UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell said in an email message. Sacramento attorney Jason Marcus, who represented Pike, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Bernie Goldsmith, a Davis lawyer supportive of the protesters, said that the settlement “sends a clear message to the next officer nervously facing off with a group of passive, unarmed students: Go on ahead. Brutalize them. Trample their rights. You will be well taken care of.”

The state’s Disability Evaluation Unit determines permanent disability ratings based on doctors’ reports.

Richard Lieberman, a Piedmont psychiatrist acting as the agreed-upon expert, rated Pike’s disability as “moderate,” according to a Jan. 5 psychiatric report released by the state Department of Industrial Relations in response to a public records request.

Pike faced “continuing and significant internal and external stress with respect to resolving and solving the significant emotional upheavals that have occurred” in his life and had not shown evidence of substantial improvement, concluded Lieberman, who spoke with Pike twice in 2012.

A second psychiatrist, Bernard Bauer of San Francisco, blindly scored Pike’s responses on a battery of psychological tests.

Now, Pike will be paid more money than those he pepper-sprayed.

In January, UCD agreed to pay $1 million to settle a federal suit. Twenty-one plaintiffs who were sprayed or arrested were to receive $30,000 each. Another 15 who also had claims approved were to be paid $6,666 apiece.

Chief Matt Carmichael fired Pike in July 2012, following eight months of paid administrative leave.

During that time, separate investigations came to different conclusions about how Pike responded when seated students, with their arms locked together, would not clear a path for officers leading away handcuffed protesters.

A public task force, led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, faulted both police and administrators for their roles in incident. Its investigation found that Pike did not need to use the pepper spray, at all, and that he used a spray not sanctioned for use by the department and that he doused the protesters from an unsafe distance.

An internal affairs investigation resulted in a panel calling only for Pike’s suspension, according to a confidential report obtained by the Sacramento Bee.

At the time of his psychiatric evaluation, Pike was appealing his termination. UCD has not rehired him.

The former Marine will receive retirement benefits for his 11 years of campus employment. He was being paid an annual salary of $121,680 at the time he was fired.

Pike also ordered a second officer, Alexander Lee, to spray protesters. Citing state law and university policy, UCD has revealed no more about Lee. He also ceased to be employed by the campus in July 2012.

Carmichael’s predecessor, Annette Spicuzza, retired during the pepper-spray investigation.

UCD and its Police Department have undertaken reforms aimed at preventing similar confrontations with student protesters. This month, the campus has hosted public meetings gathering feedback on both a draft freedom of expression policy and a plan for an independent civilian oversight board for the department.

— Reach Cory Golden at or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory _ golden

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.

Discussion | 20 comments

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  • JakeOctober 23, 2013 - 5:44 pm

    Am I the only one outraged by the fact that a campus police officer receives a salary of $121,680? This is more than tenured professors receive in my state....

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  • FJF1085October 23, 2013 - 7:29 pm

    Jake, I was thinking the SAME thing. It blew my mind. I might need to rethink this whole "biology" career...

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  • FJF1085October 23, 2013 - 7:28 pm

    Why exactly was this guy being paid, 121,680 dollars a year? Maybe that's why the state of California is broke... they are giving security guards 6 figure salaries... jesus.

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  • FJF1085October 23, 2013 - 7:28 pm

    *Campus police

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  • Rich RifkinOctober 23, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    To be fair, Pike was a senior officer, not a newbie. He was (I believe) second in command. But also keep in mind that for a "public safety" officer in California--be that CHP, local cop, local fire, court officer, etc.--his lucrative pension is 3% per year, eligible at age 50. With regular medical and other benefits, and retiree medical, and the public's share of pension funding, and other "load" expenses, it costs roughly twice what his annual salary was to employ him. That's in the $220,000 range, and that is why our cities, counties and state are broke and some are going bankrupt. And in Pike's case, the total comp costs for him do not count the dollars going to the state's lawyers and to the plaintiffs in the lawsuits brought as a result of the pepper-spraying).

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  • October 24, 2013 - 8:41 am

    FJF1085 - you're right, $121,000 + Overtime + Bennies + Pensions = overpayment? I think they should be paid well, and there should be a much higher pay ate for those who work in urban areas, but not in Carmichael, Monterey, or Davis. Mr. Rifkin, aren't your numbers off on Pike? Yes, if he worked for 30-35 years he'd get to those numbers, but in this case, he'll get 33% for life, roughly $40,000 per year pension, plus bennies.

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  • Rich RifkinOctober 24, 2013 - 7:32 pm

    I don't know how many years Pike was employed as a California public safety officer in the same pension plan. If it was just 11 years and he is old enough for retirement (I don't know his age), then it would be 33%, as you say. But that was not the question I was answering. My answer regarded how much his annual total compensation costs the UC (which, in effect, is the taxpayers). And for a UC cop on a 3% at 50 plan, the annual cost to his employer is 34.616% (and soon to rise much higher), assuming they do not also pick up part of his employee share. That means his annual pension funding was $42,121 (or $121,680 x 34.616%). On top of that, it costs about $22,000 a year for his current medical benefit and another $18,000 to fund his retiree medical benefit. That brings his comp cost to just under $204,000, and it is likely that workers comp, life insurance, Medicare and other load costs and overtime, his total comp costs UC over $220,000 per year, perhaps more than $230,000, if he has a lot of overtime.

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  • greg johnsonApril 17, 2014 - 8:23 pm

    Rich, you've hit the nail on the head as to why I laugh out loud when liberal pundits and politicians talk about creating or keeping "middle class jobs" for police and fire fighters. I did the math on this with current education costs and found that a cop or fire fighter could retire at age 50 and make more than many (if not most MDs), both starting at age 21. It's outrageous!! Middle class jobs????

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  • randal wahooJanuary 03, 2014 - 4:23 pm

    he would probably be entitled to the disability pesnion under PERS which would give him 50% of his salay tax-free for life.....our public servants are so over-compensated!!! police and fire are the worst. Thay have easy schedules and are really only called into harms way on the rarest of occcasions. A pedestrian has a hihger chance of dying than does a cop of firefighter in the line of duty.

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  • Dexter GelfandOctober 24, 2013 - 11:45 am

    How can it be that a man can attack and physically abuse the very people it is his responsibility to protect, and then be financially compensated for the consequences he brought on himself with his own decisions and actions? Had my son been one of his victims, I'd be doing everything in my power to force prosecution, and compensation, both criminal and civil actions. Also, what this man needs to do, if he wants to live the rest of his life without suffering the after-effects of his brutal treatment of others, is to find a way to man up and accept full responsibility for what he did, rather than denying it, and protesting the reactions he brought about.

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  • LGOctober 24, 2013 - 7:39 pm

    He should have been fired without pension/benefits (no matter how outrageous and onerous they are to the state), and what he got was a public apology from the courts. This settlement goes against every principle of justice.

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  • YouGottaBeChittingMeOctober 24, 2013 - 8:04 pm

    This piece of human filth gets more money than the NON-VIOLENT, NOT RESISTING, prostesters whom he tortured? There is something seriously wrong in this country.

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  • DougOctober 25, 2013 - 8:39 am

    I honestly don't know what to be more disgusted by... this man's unbelievably outrageous salary (+benefits) or the audacity of asking for and receiving workers' compensation for the stress brought on by his own moronic (and criminal) behavior. And our public officials wonder why both liberals and conservatives are disenchanted with our government.

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  • truthloverOctober 27, 2013 - 8:49 am

    Find out the truth. Here is the unedited video of the protest: They surround the police and threatened the police. They verbally abuse the police. They are childish, animalistic, violent and disrespectful punks. They have been repeatedly warned and choose to let themselves be sprayed. Then they act like victims. It was not a peaceful protest.

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  • Cory GoldenOctober 28, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    Kroll investigators, hired for their law enforcement expertise, and the Reynoso task force concluded that objective evidence showed police were not threatened and that Pike did not need to use pepper spray. See pages 18, 24 in Reynoso and page 117 in Kroll: From standing within a few feet of the pepper-spraying, I can tell you that: Onlookers made up the overwhelming majority of those present; officers came and went through the crowd (as did the police chief who between cell phone calls was talking to students who were watching); the seated protesters made a line across the sidewalk easy to walk around on either side of it; Pike stepped over the seated protesters; the path to the south was open. The officers stayed in one place in no small part because no plan was made in advance for what to do with anyone arrested for being in the way of the tent removal (see the report for a detailed look at flaws in planning of the operation). They were waiting for vehicles to transport prisoners. All of that being said, it's important to note that Pike's application for workers' compensation stemmed not from the confrontation itself but the many threats that he and his family received afterward. In the sessions that provided the basis for that evaluation, and when interviewed in the confidential internal affairs investigation (as reported by the Sacramento Bee), Pike maintained that his actions were appropriate under the circumstances.

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  • Truth be knownFebruary 18, 2014 - 2:31 am

    The Reynoso "task force "was a joke. Believing in the credibility of it is believing "we're from the government and we're here to help."

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  • Truth be knownFebruary 18, 2014 - 2:23 am

    Thank you truth lover for your comment. I laugh at the outrage these people profess. Lt Pike was not paid any overtime even though he worked much more than a typical 40 hour work week. This was not a job you left at work. He was a good, respectful Lt and got the shaft here. He WAS FOLLOWING ORDERS ORIGINATING FROM THE CHANCELLORS OFFICE! The whole thing rests clearly on the shoulders of the Chancellor but she has been excused for her actions and those beneath her get the blame. Typical university tactics.

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  • greg johnsonApril 17, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    Truth be known= Lt. Pike??

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  • PaulPierceIsTheTruthApril 17, 2014 - 6:51 pm

    Yeah, I don't see that 30K settlement going to anything that great; no documentaries can be made glorifying these kid's protest because, a fair amount of them, went to college at UCD to damage their brains with drugs. But yeah, someone should be getting on the head of financing at UCD about how bad the professor pay situation is; you HAVE to be gambling on the stock market to have a chance at a decent retirement now; it wasn't the case in the 70's but then again, I guess UCD doesn't want to attract the best anymore...

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  • February 10, 2014 - 8:14 pm

    OMG this is Funny... Does not anyone see the humor? These protesters, who evolved out of are so protesting the gross extravagances of Wall Street, needed not look any further than the salary of a campus cop to find the fabled 1% !

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