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Gibson writes: "When a man shoots a police officer, he's automatically labeled a cop killer, and reports describe it as a man murdering another man in uniform. But when cops shoot and kill innocent, unarmed black teens, like they've done in multiple cases over the years, it's always described as an 'officer-involved shooting.'"

Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police sprays UC Davis protesters. (photo: Louise Macabitas)
Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police sprays UC Davis protesters. (photo: Louise Macabitas)

Pepper Spray Cop's Settlement Sets Dangerous Precedent

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

25 October 13


hen a man shoots a police officer, he's automatically labeled a cop killer, and reports describe it as a man murdering another man in uniform. But when cops shoot and kill innocent, unarmed black teens, like they've done in multiple cases over the years, it's always described as an "officer-involved shooting." The cop goes on paid leave until the outrage blows over, and is given a comfy desk job to keep him away from harm. If a man walked up to a group of college students and attacked them with chemical weapons without provocation, he would rightly be arrested and jailed for aggravated assault. But when a man with a badge and uniform does it, he gets a year's salary from the state for free.

Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis police pepper-sprayed a group of sitting protesters in 2011. Amidst an autumn of federally-coordinated, violent police suppression of the Occupy movement, the incident in Davis was clearly one of the most heinous cases. A group of students had linked arms, sat down, and refused to move when the police came to evict their encampment. Lt. John Pike then casually exhibited a red can of military-grade pepper spray, nonchalantly strolled past the protesters, and doused them in orange gas, which led to the hospitalization several of the students. International outrage ensued. "Pepper Spraying Cop" became a widely-shared meme, and Pike was originally put on paid leave and eventually fired. The students sued, and a $1 million settlement was split between all 21 of them. Pike was just awarded $38,058 in disability payments, after claiming he suffered "emotional and psychological damage" from his attack on UC Davis students.

This is the most egregious and ballsy defrauding of the state in years. If Pike had wanted to avoid suffering emotional and psychological damage, all he had to do was let protesters protest, instead of attacking them without provocation with chemical weapons licensed for military use. Instead, he claimed he was "damaged" from being loathed by the entire world, and the state gave him what amounts to an average annual salary for a professional-level job. Disability is money that's normally reserved for veterans who come home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, factory workers who breathe in noxious fumes, or construction workers who throw their back out while on the job. Disability money should definitely not go to rent-a-cops who commit violent acts against peaceful protesters. Especially when that cop's overzealous act was proven to have been preventable by a task force who examined the incident.

Pike's settlement is dangerous, specifically because it sets a precedent allowing police to act egregiously, knowing they won't be held accountable and can be entitled to a hefty settlement after the fact. If Lt. Pike can get a sizable disability settlement, why can't other cops, like the ones who shot Kimani Gray, an unarmed black teenager in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, just for how he looked? After riots broke out in Flatbush and the NYPD put the neighborhood under martial law, what's to stop Gray's shooters from pleading to the state of New York for the "emotional and psychological" damages stemming from their actions?

Part of the law enforcement oath taken by police everywhere is, "I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions." Not only did Pike fail to hold himself accountable, but UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza betrayed her oath when she defended Pike's actions in the media in the face of widespread international outrage, alleging that the students' act of sitting and linking arms justified using violent force. Spicuzza was finally placed on administrative leave when the outrage reached its peak. This isn't just a problem with one cop, but an entire police force. And the UC Davis Police's refusal to hold themselves accountable is a problem seen in almost every major city's police department. All the investigations of police brutality are handled internally, with police investigators from that same police department absolving all officers of guilt.

A civilian review board of police actions must go hand in hand with every municipal and university police force. This will ensure that if something like Lt. Pike's unprovoked attack on students happens again, there are a group of citizens with no ties to the police who will hold these cops accountable. Pike's settlement must not become a license for all crooked, violent, mentally-unstable cops to freely persecute citizens.


Keep up with US Uncut!

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

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+44 # tedrey 2013-10-25 08:57
The sole responsibility for self-judgment can not safely be entrusted to any man, organization, or nation.
+79 # Barbara K 2013-10-25 09:35
What is happening to our country? It's like the police have become the Gestapo. We need to put a stop to this kind of treatment to our citizens. We are not enemies, this is our country, the place where we live. Protect us.
+36 # Lorraine B. 2013-10-25 10:39
The police now have no compunction about using brute force even in the face of unarmed resistance. But it's kind of a good thing (for those sprayed) that this incident happened 2 years ago; now the cops automatically shoot BULLETS first and ask questions later. Remember Miriam Carey and now the poor 13 year old who was just shot to death over a toy gun.
+28 # Glen 2013-10-25 10:42
Barbara, citizens have been beaten and killed for many years now, from labor union organizers and demonstrators, to college campus demonstrators during the Vietnam war, and veterans on the White House mall. I've read articles concerning the psychology of both the college students and the National Guard when facing each down.

Power over the subjects. It will never stop.
+59 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:00
The salient point that everyone is missing because they are in denial is that the police stopped being the police about ten to fifteen years ago when they were conscripted to become a paramilitary organization. Wake up.

The police are no longer The Police. They DO NOT protect or serve (us). Their job is to contain us and protect the rich and any member of (Right-wing) government. I believe this all came about with the unPatriot Act and the rest of the BushCo crime politics.

For whatever reason, it is only now that people are just beginning to question whether or not there has been a coup d'etat in this country. Don't you know what "coup d'etat" means? Well, it's happened.

We are no longer a representative democracy we are a militarized police state (you may hear Banana Republic.) This isn't just rhetoric, people, this is for real... wakie wakie.
+17 # Glen 2013-10-26 06:56
Cops have been brutal for a long time, WestWinds. I met a guy in California who, while in the military, spent a tour in Korea in the early '60's. He went home to become a cop in Birmingham and witnessed cops making bets on who would get the most kills in a given year, one of them shooting a 7 year old in the head while fleeing with older kids from a drugstore. Remember the cops and dogs attacking and beating blacks senseless during integration? How about the government recruiting cops to brutalize hispanics, labor organizers, protesters at WTO meetings, Los Angeles and Miami have seen a lot of that. And elsewhere, of course.

Of course, you are right, there is more of it, and the uniforms have morphed into combat ready equipment, but the brutalization and violence has always been there.
+16 # Cassandra2012 2013-10-25 12:42
Many new recruits in the police are ex-armed forces that served in Afghanistan and Iraq--- brutalized and brutalizing in those places. Is it any wonder they behave like the hired goons of the 1%?
+2 # LAellie33 2013-10-29 03:35
I totally agree, Barbara! This "cop" should be imprisoned and fined. Anyone who takes it into their own hands to commit a crime, as he did, should not be allowed to EVER be in control of anyone else.
-104 # arquebus 2013-10-25 09:36
As I recall, the students were blocking sidewalks. The students have every right to demonstrate, but does that mean they can close off public streets and sidewalks and bar non-demonstrati ng citizens the use of them?

Does their right to demonstrate supersede the right of others to transit those sidewalks. If yes, then the officer should be punished for use of excessive force. If no--if they don't have a right to bar public sidewalks and deny their use by non-demonstrato rs, then the cop did what he should have done...protecte d the rights of non-demonstrato rs to freely pass.
+26 # Farafalla 2013-10-25 13:51
Succubus is a better name for that post. I guess you liked Bull Conner and his firehoses. What about picket lines and strikes? Smash them too? Peaceable assembly, dissent, grievances, protests are protected by the First Amendment. Or did you throw that out too?
+15 # PGreen 2013-10-25 21:13
"Does their right to demonstrate supersede the right of others to transit those sidewalks. If yes, then the officer should be punished for use of excessive force."

Well according to the 1rst Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..."

Since the protestors were within their rights that police officer should be charged with assault. Glad to see that you agree. But I'm not sure why you thought it neccessary to question such an obvious thing...unless you're hunting for a way not to condone the behavior of the protestors or to justify police hostility.
+17 # rockieball 2013-10-26 07:37
They were sitting on the campus property not a public sidewalk. So you are saying that if anyone or any group of people block your way as you are walking on the sidewalk, you have the right to spray them with a hazardous chemical.
+54 # DaveM 2013-10-25 09:46
Let's assume that the protesters were blocking a public thoroughfare. The police would have the authority to ask them to move along, or, if that failed, to tell them to leave the area and arrest them if they did not. That was not what happened here.

I am unable to think of any scenario in which the appropriate response by protesters (I emphasize that--not criminal suspects, people engaged in violent activity, or an active threat to any officer) would be to summarily punish them. Robocop might have a different view. Robocop is fiction.

As to the response to the officer's actions, it appears to be an example of "the king can do no wrong". Except that in this case it is not the king, it is the junta.
+68 # Farmerboy 2013-10-25 09:47
Mr. Pike should be forced to return the $38,058. He should also have to write 21 separate hand-written 250-word letters of apology to each person he harmed explaining why his behavior was disgraceful for an officer of the law, and how it was a violation of his victim's First Amendment rights.
+11 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:07
Under a coup d'etat, the citizenry have no rights. The fact that BHO won't rescind posse comitatus and has ordered millions of bullets to be made for the military and the police should tell you something.

You are playing checkers while they are playing junta chess. Get real!
+39 # jwb110 2013-10-25 09:49
When have the police ever really been on the side of the people who pay their salaries?
+28 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:14
-- # jwb110 2013-10-25 07:49
When have the police ever really been on the side of the people who pay their salaries? --

When the Boomers were kids. Back then you could find a police officer on every major street corner or out walking a beat. Your mother told you if there ever was a problem to go find a police officer. But now, post coup d'etat, the LAST persons you want to run to are the police. They will only ridicule you, tell you you're paranoid and whatever the trouble is, it isn't happening and will mock you for being upset and/or frightened.

When the Right told us "you're on your own" they weren't just kidding; they meant it. They have absconded with all the money and all the power and we are left standing out in the cold rain.

And it's not going to be until We, the People develop a backbone and stand up and speak out against this garbage will anything change. As long as we wander in denial asking dumb questions and allowing them to get away with this, it is going to go on; unabated and gathering momentum, wealth and power as it goes. It's up to us. No one is going to come and rescue us. Find a group you like, sign up and get active. Add yourself to the numbers of resisters and let's tip the scales in our direction.
+16 # Farafalla 2013-10-25 13:58
No, there were no good ol days when it comes to cops. They are the last to side with the people and the first to use force to protect the status quo. Look at the history of the labor movement. Yesterday it was Pinkertons, today it's Wackenhut--priv ate armies of brutal cops. Your local PD is a militarized bastion of gun crazy whackos who can't wait to shoot someone (usually a black person). Many fascist types join the police force to get away with murder. Brutal people like the color of authority.
+3 # tedrey 2013-10-27 10:35
Yes and no. Cops in this country have always been more brutal towards the labor movement and minorities. But there were wide swathes of rural, small town, and suburban areas of the sort West Winds mentions, where the cop was a good person to have around, one who was on the side of citizens. It can happen; it does in other numerous other countries.

But instead of America extending its protection to labor and minorities and everyone, our governments (state and federal, Dem and Rep) have gone the other direction, extending the police brutality to everyone . . . all of us now being potential enemies of the government.
+3 # Cassandra2012 2013-10-27 14:23
That too is a myth --- rural cops have done many things not in 'House on the Prairie', (including in one area will not name but I know to be accurate) where the cop would arrest poorer kids for having marijuana, while aiding in flying in(!!!) [and getting his cut of] not just marijuana but heroin as well.
+36 # pegasus4508 2013-10-25 10:16
This officer appeared to relish his role as brutalizer in charge as he strolled along, spray peppering all along his path. Emotion distress? It seemed as if he loved the damage and pain he was inflicting. For THAT he gets disability? Yet, the Rabid Right claims the TAKERS are ruining our country? No, it is sub humans like this and other officers of his ilk that are ruining our country.

Our police are just as Lawless as our criminals. I don't know if the NEW mentality "It takes a criminal to catch a criminal" is now in effect or what. In Baltimore, the Baltimore City police have killed - as in ruled homicide at least 5 black men in the last couple of years. Harford, Carroll and Baltimore Counties have also gotten into the killing game, except they also killed white males.
It appears that the police now consider themselves above the law.
+32 # Cailleach 2013-10-25 10:57
Excuse me! The TAKERS are the 1% who take our labor and pay less than a living wage for our work. The 1% are the lazy ones, profiting hugely from the sweat of the 99%, while acting against the Constitution.
+21 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:26
[quote name="pegasus45 08"]This officer appeared to relish his role as brutalizer in charge as he strolled along, spray peppering all along his path. Emotion distress? It seemed as if he loved the damage and pain he was inflicting. For THAT he gets disability? Yet, the Rabid Right claims the TAKERS are ruining our country? No, it is sub humans like this and other officers of his ilk that are ruining our country.

The sales job We have bought is that We are the takers. No, we're not. We are the workers that make the industrial clowns rich. WE are the givers (of our time, our lives, our labor, our job loyalty.) Let's get this straight: THEY are the takers; THEY are the greed driven monsters who want more and more and more. THEY are the takers.
+29 # Old Uncle Dave 2013-10-25 10:37
At some point people are going to say "Enough!" and it's going to get ugly.
+19 # luvdoc 2013-10-25 10:41
Seig Heil, the blackshirts are among us. Either suck it up or protest. luvdoc
+11 # ChickenBoo 2013-10-25 10:52
Really? Come on now, RSN. Do we really have to toss the race card into EVERYthing? I thought donations were going well! Those students are not "BLACK". OK, there might have a black kid in with the Mexican and the Asian. But mostly, they were good old "White patties". Please stop inflaming people with that race card. Arguebus does have a point about blocking public access. My son is a cop and he is constantly having to move people from blocking sidewalks as a fire safety thing. But Dave M is totally right too, in that they should have been arrested, not sprayed like bugs. Cops are being trained now that we are the enemy. Period. And we get treated as such in almost every encounter. I once called for 'stand-by' protection from our local PD from a threatening neighbor. The neighbor is very wealthy, I am not, and when the cops got here, they immeadiately sided with the neighbor, instead of ME, and I was the one who called them for protection. THAT was a suprise.
-4 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:42
One of Three: [quote name="ChickenBo o"]Really? Come on now, RSN. Do we really have to toss the race card into EVERYthing? I thought donations were going well! Those students are not "BLACK". OK, there might have a black kid in with the Mexican and the Asian. But mostly, they were good old "White patties".

--- What's are "White patties"? Do you mean Irish white kids? Or are you referring to the police, "Paddies"? A "Paddy" is an Irish cop. The term "paddy" comes from the Gaelic "Padraigh" meaning (Saint) Peter; a common/popular Irish name during the turn of the last century.
+14 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:43
Two of Three:

: "I once called for 'stand-by' protection from our local PD from a threatening neighbor. The neighbor is very wealthy, I am not, and when the cops got here, they immeadiately sided with the neighbor, instead of ME, and I was the one who called them for protection. THAT was a suprise."

--- Wealth played small part in it. They turned against you because YOU called them and they are in the process of training the public NOT to call them because they no longer represent the best interests of the public. They are a paramilitary (think about this term) organization tasked with containing us and protecting the (criminal) power structure all over this country. We are a Banana Republic (think about this term, also.) So, in order to abuse us, the police first have to be taught to "objectify" us; learn to think of us as non-human combatants that they must save the rich and powerful from. It goes to show you that education in this country has been gutted or police personnel would be able to think their way out of this and realize THEY are a part of us and not those they are currently protecting; but it really all only goes down to an inbound paycheck and the police are willing to abdicate their better judgement for that paycheck. They've sold out, in other words.
+13 # WestWinds 2013-10-25 11:54
Three of Three:

--- You are right, they are going to side AGAINST anyone who calls them. I have been burglarized and vandalized practically on a daily basis (no exaggeration) and every time the police came/come out they insulted and ridiculed me and the most action I get is "I'll tell them" meaning they'll mention it to the other police (do I believe this???). They said the vandalism was "natural deterioration" never mind I only bought the house a few years ago and it would have had to pass a bank inspection, and as far as the burglary goes, they mock me and tell me I'm "paranoid; even though one office told me they had over 30 unsolved burglaries on the books. Meanwhile, our PD here are running around in brand new and very expensive riot gear. Go figure... 30 burglaries on the books for a town that is 11.2 square miles; all unsolved; why? Because there is no commitment to it, no funding for it, and no staffing to follow it through. If you lose all that is near and dear to you, so what? I have had two German shepherd dogs killed to clear the way for the burglaries but the police tell me I'm paranoid. Yuh, right.
+3 # Sandy 2013-10-27 12:03
I partially disagree. The cops DO work for the wealthy interests in any town or city, always have and always will (under the current system). But meanwhile, there IS a growing out-of-hand police state militarism going on as a backdrop to all that, with a corresponding dehuminizing component to the training.

Who would have imagined 30 years ago the police being called to school to arrest some little kid because he swiped another little kid's whatchamacallit .

Or the widespread shoot first ask questions later scenario which seems to be more prevelant than ever nationwide in all kinds of neighborhoods.

Adding insult to injury are the rewards given to the cops that do the dirty work, as this case illustrates. Maybe this university 'cop' did suffer some humiliation from the fallout of his calous act. But he stayed out of jail for the assault, so in my book he's already been overcompensated .
+17 # Activista 2013-10-25 12:04
The police acts now as fear aggressive dogs - I was thrown down, tasered, handcuffed month ago for passive resistance - think that some young police (I am 68 year old)is psychologically damaged by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Watch Fallujah masacre
These people are now back on the street of America ... doing more damage than protection ...
+7 # angelfish 2013-10-25 15:28
This is a Disgrace! The young people he sprayed should EACH be awarded DOUBLE the amount given to this Cretin who assaulted them! We have SURELY gone through the Looking Glass when the Perpetrators are rewarded and the Victims are punished! We ARE a Fascist State, run by Lunatics and Mad Hatters who, like the Contrary Indians from the Novel, "Little Big Man", do the opposite of what NORMAL people do, JUST to BE contrary! Dear God, let us awaken from this nightmare!
+10 # Legion 2013-10-25 15:36
I would really like to inflict a heap of emotional and psychological, to say nothing of physical, damage on the criminal John Pike. I never thought I would live to hear myself thinking such thoughts, but now I say them openly: more than forty years ago, Tom Hayden said that "we need people who can fight the police, people who are willing to get arrested." I now find myself agreeing with the radical Mr. Hayden, who must be an old man by now. When policemen break the law, there is no law. People will have to be willing to sacrifice their own lives, I am afraid, in order to combat lawless policemen.
+8 # geraldom 2013-10-25 20:32
The only reason he and other SOB cops like him get away with what they can get away with and, at the same time, end up getting a monetary award for their crime is because their victims, or the family of the victims, if the victim is deceased or can't represent themselves in a court of law cannot sue the officer directly as a normal civilian. You can sue their employer which in this case is U.C. Davis.

If one were able to sue a police officer in the normal fashion as one can sue a regular civilian in a civil lawsuit and the officer were to lose, he would be personally responsible to pay the damages, perhaps even lose his house in the bargain, these incidences would stop.

If you read the following article, you will also find that insult was also added to injury:

After the 11/18/2011 incident, John Pike was suspended with pay. His job ended on 07/31/2012. Based on what he made in 2010, about $110,243, in addition to the $38,000 workers compensation award he just received, he probably made about $73,000 for doing nothing before he was fired.

I always find it strange that victims of police violence, if they win in court, always seem to accept chickenfeed in damages. I find it a total insult that each of the victims accepted only $30,000 each in damages while John Pike walked away laughing all the way to the bank with $111,000.
+10 # geraldom 2013-10-25 20:36
The following is another article of what I consider to be an unacceptable police shooting.

The police officers in this case should have been immediately fired from their jobs and the parents of this poor boy should be allowed to sue them in a court of law.

This is just way too much. Police officers should not be given a license to murder as they seem to have these days.
+7 # kalpal 2013-10-26 09:23
A cop in uniform does not commit a felony by breaking the law. he simply has mande a minor mistake. At least that is the way it was explaioned to me. No matter that someone was injured or died, it was just a mistake.
+4 # geraldom 2013-10-26 13:44
Kalpal, I don't fully understand your comment. Are you supporting what police do when they commit crimes? John Pike knew that what he did was wrong and illegal and yet he did anyway and he would do it again if he were given the chance. He did it because he knew he could get away with it without properly being held accountable for his actions.

The killing of that 13-year-old boy in California for carrying a toy gun on the street by two police officers who believed that they have been given a license to kill as police officers, to murder people, should be fired, and to have the police department itself investigate this matter rather than a completely independent agency or organization, is a travesty of justice. The police departments should never ever be allowed to investigate themselves.

There were many things that the police officers could have done before shooting to kill a boy, a young boy. They could have stopped their car and gotten out on the opposite side from where the boy was and announced themselves as police using the police car as a shield and to demand that the boy drop the weapon. I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts that the toy weapon that the boy was carrying was not pointed at anyone.

The police departments in today's world have becomes militarized and the police have become trained killers, and the pledge that they take to uphold and protect the United States Constitution has all but become a joke.
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-10-26 10:22
Let’s also note that this settlement sends the clear message that cops who break the laws of government & of civilized decency will not only not be punished, they will be rewarded by their masters. Heil Piggery!
+6 # jcadams 2013-10-26 13:19
This is disgusting. It underscores how the hiring, evaluation, supervision and/or discipline of the rank and file police employees is flawed. And corrupted. And any civil suit by a private citizen about police abuse or illegal behavior by a policeman is met with incredible legal stonewalling. First by the municipality that hires the offending police department. By the municipal prosecutor or municipal attorney who needs to have good “working relationships” with “law enforcement” and dares not to go against the pressures of their police departments. And prosecutors and/or municipal attorneys who also must protect their governmental employers against civil suits. In this deeply flawed and conflicted situation the citizens get very poor legal protections. But whatever the municipal attorney or prosecutor doesn’t block or stonewall --- well-financed police unions will finish the job. To protect their union member and fellow police “buddy” type person. (ie. The “blue wall” of silence and defense.) The citizen is being screwed. Moreover, in this case the "President" of UCD was doing a very poor job of monitoring and supervising an out-of-control campus police department. That UCD CEO should be fired.
+6 # ghostperson 2013-10-26 23:31
Law enforcement is now a tool of corporate America. Police forces all over the country came out in force to quash "occupy" protests. All politicians' campaign coffers are filled by the elite. The elites command, the police, like trained dogs, attack. The ones with the gold make the rules.
0 # j76wellman 2014-12-16 22:02

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