As promised in my previous post, here’s what has happened to the major players in the UC Davis “pepper-spray cop” crisis between November 18, 2011 and the present.
Below Lt. John A. Pike III in the pecking order on that fateful day stood UC Davis police officer Alexander Lee, “likely . . . the least experienced officer present at the events of November 18.” Commanded by Pike to follow his example and spray some students illegally with unauthorized military-grade MK-9, Lee obeyed, blasting them at point-blank range even more aggressively than Pike (one of them directly in the mouth) in front of dozens of cameras ― a bad career move.
Placed on paid administrative leave a few days later, outed as “Officer O” in the redacted Kroll/Reynoso report, Lee left the force on July 11, 2012, either fired or forced to resign. Having spent less than two years on the Davis police force, Lee hadn’t earned his way into the pension system. So, as severance compensation, he got only the eight months of full pay with benefits for his “administrative leave.” (He has John Pike to thank for that.)
The photographic documentation of his actions that day effectively convicted him of unprofessional and illegal acts, which won’t look good on his resumé.
The same holds true for Pike, who ordered Lee to imitate his assault on the students, and whose subsequent narrative I detailed in my last post.
Payin’ The Cost To Be The Boss (Not)
Just above them on the totem pole sat their commanding officer, UC Davis Police Department Chief Annette Spicuzza. The record indicates that she panicked the administration by incorrectly “estimating that about 80 percent of the protesters were not students,” didn’t attend the operational briefing before the incident, let the officers under her refuse to obey her orders and decide which “less-lethal weapons” they’d take to the scene, and spent the most crucial minutes of the incident “in the crowd filming the police actions with her cell phone.”
Shortly after the unwarranted and illegal pepper-spraying of the students by Pike and Lee, Spicuzza announced to her department, “I wanted you to know, for those who weren’t involved, that our officers showed great restraint, professionalism and respect for all involved. . . . I wanted to thank those involved for their work, all of their effort, and dedication. I am proud of all you do. Thank you.”
She then lied to the media about the situation on campus during the demonstration, claiming that students had surrounded and threatened the officers under her command. (Click here for the November 19, 2011 press conference. Spicuzza’s falsehoods can be found at 9:40 into the video.)
When the photographic evidence contradicted her multiple prevarications, and the Kroll and Reynoso reports on the event castigated her for “weak leadership” and “tolerance of insubordination” in “a dysfunctional chain of command,” Spicuzza, placed on administrative leave three days after the event, took early retirement on April 18, 2012. In a statement to the Sacramento Bee she wrote, “I believe in order to start the healing process, this chapter of my life must be closed.”
Regarding her role in the police action and departure from UC Davis, Spicuzza held her own pity party, whingeing to Fox News in July of this year, “I didn’t make that decision [to use pepper spray], I didn’t know it had occurred. If I have any regret out of the entire situation it’s that we never had an opportunity to make it right. . . . I had to leave the state for a month because of death threats and fear for the safety of my family. I’ve lost my home, lost my name, lost insurance. If these people wanted me to suffer they got their wishes.”
Poor thing. My heart goes out to her. We can take comfort in the fact that, with seven years’ service as chief, Spicuzza, 56, is vested in the UC retirement plan. She retired at a salary level of $152,405, “entitled to either a lump-sum payment worth upwards of $286,000 or a lifetime income of about $1,700 per month, according to an online UC benefits calculator,” according to a report in the Davis Enterprise. That’s on top of five months’ full pay and bennies while on administrative leave.
Subsequently selected to serve as the interim Public Safety Director of the City of Pacific (located between Seattle and Tacoma, WA), Spicuzza resigned that position after only two days, for reasons unclear. There’s been no news of her since. I should add that she’s had ample time to take responsibility for her failure to discipline Pike and Lee, to explain their illegal possession of military-grade MK-9 (in whose use they had no training), and to apologize. Don’t hold your breath on that.
She’s Not So Innocent
Moving from the lower end of the chain of command toward the top, we come now to UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, who has Donna Summers’s “I Will Survive” as her theme song, I suspect.
• We now know that Katehi issued an illegal order to remove the tents and possessions of the students legally occupying the quad at U. C. Davis on November 18, 2011. The protestors were not ― repeat, not ― performing acts of civil disobedience; they exercised their constitutional right to assemble in public, on public property. Katehi’s ignorance of and disregard for the law constituted, in and of themselves, grounds for her immediate dismissal by Mark G. Yudof, then president of the statewide University of California system.
• We know that Katehi lies and blames victims to cover her ass as a matter of habit. Her initial statement read, in part, “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested. We are even more saddened by the events that subsequently transpired to facilitate their removal.” She also asserted that “Technically speaking, the police followed protocol” ― by applying an unauthorized grade of pepper spray in whose use they had no training. After that, she repeatedly stated falsely that that she tried to meet with the students who were sprayed but was rebuffed.
• We know that, due to budgetary and time constrictions imposed by the university on the Kroll/Renoso Task Force, they based their report strictly on the documents supplied to them by the university ― that is, their mandate did not empower them to conduct a forensic search of the files of the Chancellor, the university police department, and others involved. We’ll likely never know what even more damning evidence Katehi covered up, though some of it has trickled out.
• We know that, even with those constraints, the Kroll/Reynoso Task Force Report on the event, commissioned by the university, determined that in Katehi’s administration “the actions of the Leadership Team provide a case study in how not to make important institutional decisions.” The report also cites numerous further falsehoods promulgated by Katehi in an assortment of official communications. (Click here, here, here, and here for detailed commentaries on the report and its conclusions.)
• We know that over 3,500 emails were sent to the UC Board of Regents in response to the police actions against students during protests at UC Berkeley and UC Davis in November. According to The Daily Californian, “Over 2,000 of the emails called for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s resignation [as part of email campaigns],” as did an additional 500 sent individually. Only two of the 3500 emails approved of the handling of these situations.
• We know that Katehi responded to this in Pollyanna mode, issuing a relentlessly upbeat “State of the Campus” report on April 12, 2012, immediately after publication of the Kroll/Renoso report, and issuing a letter thanking the Reynoso Commission for its efforts, as if it contained no condemnation of her and no challenge to her competence and fitness for office. (For a scathing analysis of her weaselly locutions, click here.)
• We know that she’s an expert spinmeister. Spend a few minutes with the documents I’ve linked to in the paragraph just above, and the op-ed piece she published in The Huffington Post just a few weeks after the pepper-spray attack, “Our Students Are Not Protesting in a Vacuum,” which basically intimates that society’s at fault for this ― what I call the Knock On Any Door defense. See also the mealy-mouthed form letter of apology, dated February 15, 2013, that she sent to the people pepper-sprayed on her watch (one requirement of the eventual settlement of the federal lawsuit filed by them against the university).
• We know that in May of 2012 the 34-member Executive Council of the UC Davis Academic Senate released a resolution that censured Katehi for “failure to perform adequately the tasks of her office and failure to provide clarity, candor and trustworthy accounts in relation to the events of Nov. 18,” stopping short of calling for her resignation “at this time.”
• We know that Katehi had a professional connection to Penn State University President Graham Spanier, fired in early November of 2011 in the wake of the indictment of football coach and serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. The disgraced Spanier hand-picked Katehi to become a member of “a group of university chancellors and presidents from major research institutions around the country [who meet] with FBI agents and representatives for the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (NSHEAB). . . . As a member of the NSHEAB, Katehi will help to foster a growing relationship between higher institutions of learning and the FBI. Special Agent Drew Parenti of the Sacramento FBI said this relationship is necessary for national security reasons.” (See “Chancellor Katehi appointed to FBI advisory board: Creates Open Dialogue Between UC Davis And FBI,” in the California Aggie, October 19, 2010, and “Two Scandals, One Connection: The FBI link between Penn State and UC Davis” by Dave Zirin for The Nation.)
• And we know that Katehi helped strip Greek universities of their asylum status, thus “play[ing] a role in allowing Greece security forces to raid university campuses for the first time since the junta was overthrown in 1974.” (See Mark Ames’s report from November 23, 2011.) The new laws she helped to contrive for Greece serve “to end student anti-austerity protests.” (For further reading on this, see “Linda Katehi and the neoliberal reform of Greek Higher Education” by Panagiotis Sotiris, Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean, and “Athens Polytechnic comes to UC Davis,” by John Quiggen.)
By my reckoning, she’s lost not only all credibility in her repeated claims of dismay over the pepper-spraying of the students under her supervision but any sympathy I felt initially for her plight. Indeed, this strikes me as what we in America call the chickens coming home to roost.
Yet, by a majority of more than two to one, members of the same UC Davis Academic Senate voted against a motion that would have expressed “no confidence” in Katehi’s leadership (taken in February 2012, before the release of the Kroll/Reynoso report, which might have affected the outcome of that ballot). Former California State Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, whose commission released a report devastatingly critical of her, immediately thereafter recommended that she stay at her post to supervise the very changes forced by her failures of leadership. Gregory C. Pappas, publisher of Greek America Magazine and founder of the Greek America Foundation, staunchly defended her.
Last Woman Standing
As did Katehi’s boss, Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, who had plausible deniability on all the decisions leading up to Pike’s meltdown and continued to express his complete confidence in Katehi until he resigned his position, effective August 1, 2013. (He received a compensation package valued at $828,000 in his incoming year, 2008-09, and will receive an annual pension of “at least $230,000″ after little over five years of service. That should take some of the sting out of departing with this blot of pepper spray fresh on his escutcheon as both an administrator and a legal expert with serious first-amendment chops.)
Which leaves Katehi as the last woman standing, so to speak. Everyone else in any position of authority in the hierarchy either resigned or got the heave-ho. Within a year or so all the students Pike sprayed will have graduated or left. Against all odds (including my own prediction), after all this she’s still there. In less than a year she too will become vested in the UC retirement plan (at roughly half the yield of Yudof’s, as she gets roughly half the salary he did). That should take some of the sting out of the fact that her eventual obit will surely replay her November 19, 2011 televised “walk of shame” along a path lined with the students whose trust she’d betrayed.