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Lt. John Pike Goes Viral (8)

A. D. Coleman, 2010. Photograph copyright by Willie Chu.Smackdown as Meltdown

When former UC Davis Police Force Lt. John A. Pike III stood before a hundred cameras waving a canister of MK-9 pepper spray that he was carrying in violation of university regulations, then illegally directed its military-grade stream into the faces of seated nonviolent protestors legally present on the UC Davis campus last November 21, thus disregarding the orders of his commanding officer and the university chancellor, he opened a king-sized can of whoop-ass on himself.

California Eastern District Bankruptcy Court logoThis extremely public smackdown-as-meltdown does not constitute the behavior of a rational man. I don’t engage in amateur psychoanalysis, but the perpetrator’s 2010 bankruptcy offers one possible explanation.

Apparently Pike and his wife injudiciously borrowed heavily on their home in 2006, before the housing crisis, subsequently losing not just their residence but their furniture, their pickup truck, their wine refrigerator, their camping equipment, the wife’s $3,000 wedding ring, three handguns valued at $490, their barbecue grill, “and even $265 worth of clothing,” according to a November 23, 2011 story in The Bay Citizen. Ouch. Swapping the pistols, the pickup, the grill, and the wine refrigerator for seven years of bad credit ratings? For a guy formerly living high off the hog on a $127K annual salary with perks and bennies, that has to hurt. (Click here for a Bay Citizen editor’s rationale for publishing that information about Pike.)

Lt. John Pike waves pepper-spray can, 11-18_11

Lt. John Pike waves pepper-spray can, 11-18_11

Whatever his actual motives, Pike effectively voided his chance to plead temporary insanity by insisting to the internal investigating committee that he decided his course of action that afternoon with calm deliberation and full professionalism, and would do it all again the same way. (I expect Anonymous to post that still-secret report sometime soon.) In effect, Pike’s announced on the record that he makes no apology for ignoring his superior’s orders and deploying an unauthorized weapon in violation of the manufacturer’s instructions for its use, in collusion with his fellow officers. That constitutes premeditated conspiratorial intent to inflict bodily harm, with reckless disregard for the safety of citizens legally assembled and exercising their First Amendment rights.

Yolo County District Attorney's Office logoIf Pike plans to file a wrongful-termination suit in response to his firing this past July, he has a tough row to hoe proving himself innocent. Nonetheless, he can breathe a bit easier. The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office has determined that, despite the extensive still and video documentation of the event, and the unequivocal condemnation of Pike’s actions in the independent Reynoso and Kroll reports, “No criminal charges will be filed against University of California, Davis officers involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying of students on the University Quad.”

Still from video of Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying peaceful protesters at UC Davis, 11/18/11

Still from video of Lt. John Pike pepper-spraying peaceful protesters at UC Davis, 11/18/11

The DA’s 13-page report concludes that “viewing the incident through the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying was unlawful and therefore warrants the filing of criminal charges.” Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, has signed off on this determination. (Click here for a PDF file of that report, “The Application of Pepper Spray.”) The Sacramento Bee has quoted Pike as saying that he’s “extremely relieved” that “they are not going to be bringing any charges.”

Pike still faces civil suits, however, filed by a number of those he assaulted. So he’s not yet out of danger, legally speaking. Still, he’s dodged one blast of pepper spray here, and may dodge more.

Paying the Cost to be Pike’s Boss

That can of whoop-ass came as part of a six-pack, most of which his employers will have to chug down.

Linda Katehi, UC Davis Chancellor, still from "Walk of Shame" video, 11-20-11.

Linda Katehi, UC Davis Chancellor, still from “Walk of Shame” video, 11-20-11.

Along with that news that Pike won’t get indicted comes the announcement that UC Davis has negotiated a $1 million settlement with Pike’s victims. Each of the 21 UC Davis students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed by Pike and Alexander Lee, another campus police officer, during their otherwise peaceful protest last year will receive $30,000. Their attorneys will receive $250K. And another $100K has been set aside for other students who can still join the class-action lawsuit by proving they were either arrested or directly pepper-sprayed. This payment of damages will come from approcimately $600 million in reserve funds set aside in the university’s self-insurance program.

“The settlement also calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to write a formal apology to each of the students and alumni who were pepper-sprayed or arrested,” according to Stephen Ceasar’s September 27, 2012 report in the Los Angeles Times.

Jonathan Stein, the UC student regent, told the Los Angeles Times that a settlement of some sort was unquestionably in order. “We did an injustice to our students that day at Davis, and some amount of recompense is appropriate. More importantly, it’s time for us as an institution to publicly acknowledge that’s not the way we should treat our students; we were wrong, and we are moving forward,” Stein said.

However, in the stipulation for settlement, “UC denies the plaintiffs’ allegations. This is a mediated settlement that was approved by the Board of Regents. We believe the proposed settlement is in the best interests of the University of California,” said UC spokesman Steve Montiel.

The settlement remains subject to approval by a federal court judge, but the principals expect that to happen shortly.

John Pike: $4 Million Man

Lt. John Pike with pepper spray and Lolspeak caption.

Lt. John Pike with pepper spray and Lolspeak caption.

We can now start to do the math on what UC Davis has spent to dig itself out of the hole that John Pike dug that institution into.

  • Marsh Risk Consulting, a “crisis communications consultant” (for which read: spin doctor), hired four days after the pepper-spraying, was paid $120,000.
  • The law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen, which represented the university in this lawsuit, was paid $320,000.
  • The Kroll consulting group, hired to do an independent review of the incident, was paid $445,879.40.
  • In addition, an internal affairs investigation into Pike’s actions cost the university $230,256.73.
  • Salaries for the UC Davis police officers put on paid leave prior to their resignations and/or firings cost the university an estimated $148,300.
  • Subtotal: $1,116,135.
Alexander P. Lee, former officer in the UC Davis Police Dept., in action on November 18, 2011. Photo by N. George Harris, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Alexander P. Lee, former officer in the UC Davis Police Dept., in action on November 18, 2011. Photo by N. George Harris, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Note: The two officers who deployed the pepper spray, Lt. John Pike and Officer Alexander P. Lee (also known as “Officer O.” in the Reynoso report), no longer work for the campus police force but were paid for several months while on paid leave during investigations of the incident, as was UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, their commanding officer. (Click here for an article on the identification of Lee as the second perpetrator of unauthorized pepper-spraying, based on photographic evidence.) Pike collected an estimated $70K of his salary while on paid leave, Lee an estimated $20K, Spicuzza an estimated $58,300. (Pike’s annual salary was $121,680; Lee’s was $57,060; and Spicuzza’s was $140,000.)

This does not take into account the amount of salaried time devoted to this crisis by UC president Mark Yudof, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, and countless others within the UC system. I’d estimate that, conservatively, at another $1 million. We must also factor in the damage to the reputation of UC Davis resulting from the deluge of international bad publicity; again, a cautious guess gives me another $1 million.

John Pike, infinite recession memeSo: To the $1 million settlement we add the $1,116,135 in actual monies paid out to manage this crisis, plus $1 million for other internal expenses and $1 million for diminished reputation. And let’s not forget the $240K Pike cost the university in 2008 as settlement in a 2003 racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit resulting from his alleged homophobic slurs directed at an openly gay Asian-American fellow officer.

Grand total so far: $4,356,135.

That’s one pricey hire.

For an index of links to all posts related to this story, click here.

This post supported by a donation from the Estate of Lyle Bongé.

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2 comments to Lt. John Pike Goes Viral (8)

  • You have to wonder why Pike was protected at these costs, financially, and in terms of their credibility.

    • A. D. Coleman

      Settlements make the problems go away, leaving the accused with a certain level of deniability, since they typically stipulate that they do not constitute an admission of guilt.
      Pike behaved well from the filing of that suit in 2003 till the pepper-spray event of late ’11 — roughly eight years with no complaints on his record. So the university had no reason to believe that he’d plunge them into trouble this deep.
      Once he did so, the university was protecting itself, not Pike. I’m sure that if they had found some way to throw him to the wolves, they’d have done so. From a contractual standpoint, however, he was their instrument. And the bollixed chain of command there, the conflicting instructions and questionable legality of the police intrusion, left much to his discretion — too much, obviously, but that’s the university’s fault.
      The timing of Pike’s dismissal in July suggests that they waited until they felt they had sufficient legal grounds (the Kroll and Reynoso reports) to do so without risking a wrongful-termination suit from him.

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