Officer Alexander Lee, left, sprays seated, unarmed protesters on the UC Davis Quad on Nov. 18. He is no longer employed by the university, campus officials confirmed Wednesday. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

Officer Alexander Lee, left, sprays seated, unarmed protesters on the UC Davis Quad on Nov. 18. He is no longer employed by the university, campus officials confirmed Wednesday. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

UC Davis

Report: Chief fired Pike; panel urged ‘exoneration’

By From page A1 | August 03, 2012

Chief Matt Carmichael fired former UC Davis police Lt. John Pike on Tuesday despite an internal affairs investigation that deemed Pike’s use of pepper-spray on protesters “reasonable.”

A panel that reviewed the report recommended Pike face a suspension or demotion for using force against a dozen seated, unarmed Occupy UC Davis protesters on Nov. 18, according to a Wednesday report by The Sacramento Bee. The newspaper based its article on documents it obtained including the 76-page internal affairs report.

“The needs of the department do not justify your continued employment,” Carmichael wrote in a letter to Pike, according to The Bee.

Pike and Carmichael could not immediately be reached for comment. A UCD spokeswoman declined to speak about the newspaper’s report, citing a state law protecting the confidentiality of police personnel records.

Carmichael was sworn in April 19, replacing Annette Spicuzza. She retired while under investigation for her role in what happened after UCD leaders told police to remove the day-old encampment.

On April 27, Carmichael sent Pike a letter that outlined his intention to fire him for reasons that included Pike going against 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.

“The Operation caused damage to the campus and the Department,” Carmichael wrote, according to The Bee. “It is my judgment that you bear significant responsibility for that outcome.

“Knowing this information, you stated when interviewed that there is nothing you would do differently. Faced with the same circumstances, you would still have deployed the pepper spray.”

Investigators from two outside firms hired by UCD, Van Dermyden Allison Law Corp. of Sacramento and Yorba Linda-based Norman A. Traub Associates, saw things differently.

After interviewing campus leaders, students and officers who were on the Quad, including Pike, and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, they wrote that while the viral video of Pike spraying protesters was “disturbing,” his use of pepper spray was “reasonable under the circumstances.”

The internal affairs report noted that Pike warned the protesters before taking action and that he spoke against the decision to remove the encampment.

The report also concluded that protesters had surrounded police, The Bee reported.

That differs from the earlier conclusions of investigators from Kroll Associates Inc., an outside security firm, and a task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, who found that protesters and a crowd of onlookers neither entirely surrounded police nor threatened their safety.

Kroll and the task force found that Pike had used unnecessary force.

Pike chose not to cooperate with Kroll investigators or the task force, but the newspaper reported that he told internal affairs investigators that pepper spray was a tool “to gain compliance, so that I can get my troops out of there, my suspects out of there, and get a job done.”

“Any, any — any application of force — umm — for me it’s not a — it’s not a thrill ride — it’s not — ‘woo hoo, this is gonna be fun, I get to hurt somebody.’ That’s not it,” Pike is quoted as saying in the report.

The internal affairs report was reviewed by a panel made up of a UCD police captain and the campus chief compliance officer.

They 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.

Pike spent eight months on paid leave during the investigation, as did a second officer, Alexander Lee, who used pepper spray on the protesters at Pike’s direction.

The Bee’s report did not include investigator’s conclusions about Lee. His identity, confirmed by The Enterprise from still photographs, video and university documents, and that of others redacted in the Reynoso and Kroll reports are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit brought by The Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

UCD confirmed Tuesday that a second suspended officer ceased to be employed after July 11.

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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