Police Officer Who Pepper Sprayed Cal-Davis Students Given Workers’ Compensation For Depression

ifc763849da7450807c8eb73c51310993_lt.-john-pike.siYou may recall John Pike, a 40-year-old former officer with University of California-Davis, who became infamous due to the videotape below in which he calmly sprayed kneeling students with pepper spray during a Nov. 2011 protest. He was fired for his conduct by the university. However, he has now been awarded $38,059 in workers’ compensation for depression and anxiety in dealing with the controversy.

Pike was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and was fired eight months later in July 2012.

The record of the case is highly conflicted. On one hand, Pike was fired and yet an investigation concluded that he acted appropriately in spraying the non-violent students. Likewise, on one hand, UC-Davis paid out $1 million to settle a lawsuit by the demonstrators who were pepper-sprayed by Pike, but the university has now reached a settlement with him for the stress caused by the incident. If Pike committed an act justifying his termination and wronged students (justifying their awards), why is the resulting trauma recoverable as a worker’s compensation matter?

The reason appears to be the finding of the internal panel of the university supporting Pike’s actions. In a 76-page report, the panel using an outside law firm concluded that “For reasons detailed in this report, we conclude that Lieutenant Pike’s use of pepper spray was reasonable under the circumstances. The visual of Lieutenant Pike spraying the seated protesters is indeed disturbing. However, it also fails to tell other important parts of the story. It found that Pike warned the students repeatedly and that “the police officers were fully encircled by protesters who had locked arms and would not let the officers exit”. I am not sure how serious the “encirclement” was for the officers who appear perfectly capable of moving around (or through) the crowd or stepping over the sitting students.

The University police chief rejected the findings of the internal panel in terminating Pike.

Here is the video:

Source: LA Times

27 thoughts on “Police Officer Who Pepper Sprayed Cal-Davis Students Given Workers’ Compensation For Depression”

  1. blhlls, In the case I described, it defeated it. However, I’m a PI and don’t know the law specifics. Maybe an ALJ can reduce it? He didn’t in our case, he defeated the claim. I know a self inflicted wound defeats a claim. However, I worked a strange case in that regard. A salesman for a large multinational corporation walked into work one morning, sat down, and blew his brains out w/ a Glock 40. His widow tried to collect work comp alleging he was harmed by work stress and should be covered even though he never made a stress claim. That he went into work and committed suicide was his statement of the stress in his life. He did not leave a note. I was hired to do background. This guy was one screwed up man, outside of any work influences. The claim was defeated. I felt bad because this widow was left in bad finances.

  2. Nick S.: In WI does willful misconduct defeat the claim or just reduce it? In California it is a 50 percent reduction or increase if misconduct is found.

  3. See… You CAN violate the civil RIghts of citizens and still be rewarded by the system.

  4. blhss, Wi. has a pretty tough burden of proof for “willful misconduct.” But, it all depends on the Administrative Law Judge. The only case I can remember working where we were able to prove “will misconduct” was where an employee was playing, “Surf the pallets.” You get on a stack of pallets and the fork lift operator would simulate waves, w/ the “surfer” trying to stay on. This guy fell and seriously injured his neck and back. With some digging, we found two employees willing to testify that’s what happened. The ALJ was a sharp, straight shooter. He found against the employee.

  5. blhlls, “You are correct, sir.” Imagine Phil Hartmann doing Ed McMahon. Wi. is where work comp originated and most states follow their model. And you know, criminal negligence by an employers is one the ways you can also sue your employer. However, product liability issues does not preclude you from suing the manufacturer of a company truck/auto, maker of a machine used by the employer. etc. I’ve worked both side of that equation.

  6. Thanks Nick and Blhlls.
    (I didn’t realize that workers comp was an insurance issue. And insurance company and integrity seemed oxymoronic but good to see you found some. )

  7. Under the statutory framework in California, employees lost the right to sue employees for almost any kind of injury received on the job regardless of the employer’s culpability. In return, worker’s compensation benefits are available for almost any injury received while on the job. Benefits can be reduced or increased by a percentage as a result of serious and willful misconduct by the employee or employer. Serious and willful misconduct is conduct beyond negligence or gross negligence.

  8. leej, Unless self insured, the worker’s comp. insurance company makes that decision. Govt. is mostly self insured so then they make the decision. That’s the problem. The govt. is using taxpayers money so they don’t give a rat’s ass, “Pay the claim” is their first reaction.

    I often got called when the govt. employee was flaunting their fraud, or..and this is wrong and why I stopped taking the cases, when it was political. By political I mean the govt. insurance administrator didn’t like the employees union activities, or just regular old duopoly politics. The fact that I did not like, and stopped taking cases because of union busting will shock some here. It’s true. That was horseshit and that’s one reason why I stopped taking govt. cases. I swear under oath. The straw breaker was when a govt. administrator said to me, “We would like you to not do your usual surveillance, we want this person to KNOW they’re being watched.” I didn’t take the case, told them why, and turned down several cases after that until they stopped calling.

    I would make a guess that @ least 80% of companies buy work comp. insurance. That helps take the conflict of interest out. Not totally, but substantially. By that I mean, when I got a work comp claim from and insurance company it was hardly ever political. There were red flags, and so they hired me for surveillance. I would have contact w/ the insured[employer] most the time, because both the insurance company and insured[employer] were on the same page regarding the claimant. It got tricky in smaller companies where maybe the claimant was a family member, or good friend of the employer[insured]. The employer wanted the claim paid but the insurance company saw red flags. So, the insurance company would hire me and tell me not to contact the employer. Finally, on rare occasions, you got the same political dynamic of the aforementioned self insured govt. agency. The employer is a big account for the insurance company. Insurance is a competitive biz. So, the employer says to the insurance company, we want this claimant investigated or we’re taking our biz elsewhere. That’s tough. Savvy insurance claims managers would hire me. They would tell me, “This is a political thing, so do some surveillance but I doubt you’ll find anything.” They would give me a tight budget. This was in effect, an insurance company having some integrity. Don’t see that very often.

  9. an investigation concluded that he acted appropriately in spraying the non-violent students. (Seems to me if he was encircled then maybe those were the students that he should have considered spraying.)
    How can it be appropriate when they were nonviolent? Oh right because that way this guy can benefit from his behavior. One has to wonder was this worked out before they fired him so he knew he would come away with cash? (I don’t know much about how workers comp works but understand you can get it if the employer doesn’t fight it (?) )

  10. In my early years I took cases from the City, County and State worker’s comp/disability dept. They oversaw their own claims. It was a mess. However, police and firefighters, @ the time, had their own system of “disability.” It was really just an early retirement plan w/ virtually no oversight. The most BLATANT frauds I ever investigated involved police and firefighters. My work was limited to Wi., but from talking w/ colleagues in other states, it is a widespread problem.

  11. If the officers legitimately felt threatened by the “encirclement,” they’d have had their firearms out. What a load of crap.

  12. Assault a human while wearing a uniform and win a prize! Police officers see no down side to their abuse of citizens exercising their first amendment rights or just walking down the street.

  13. Just further confirmation that cops are a favored group – protected from the laws that would put the rest of us in jail.

  14. QUOTE “The record of the case is highly conflicted. On one hand, Pike was fired and yet an investigation concluded that he acted appropriately in spraying the non-violent students.
    The University police chief rejected the findings of the internal panel in terminating Pike.”

    Why didn’t they just have the National Guard shoot & bayonet the unarmed students like in the old days?
    NONE of the National Guard were ever prosecuted for those either.

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