Former lieutenant in UC Davis pepper-spray incident files workers’ compensation claim

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The former UC Davis police lieutenant who pepper-sprayed student protesters during a November 2011 Occupy demonstration has filed a claim for workers’ compensation after being fired from the UC Davis Police Department in July 2012.

Lt. John Pike filed for workers’ compensation from his former employer, UC Davis, on June 27, claiming he suffered “psychiatric injury” resulting from the protests, according to the public records on the California Department of Industrial Relations website.

Legal representatives for both Pike and UC Davis will meet to settle the claim at a mandatory settlement conference, which will be held on Aug. 13 in Sacramento. If a settlement is not reached, the case will either move to a new hearing or be sent to a formal trial.

Pike could receive compensation between $130 and $270 per week for anywhere between a few weeks to life, according to the Department of Industrial Relations website. The compensation would come from UC Davis’ insurer, Sedgwick Claims Management Services.

Stephen Hopcraft, a spokesperson representing Pike’s legal team at the Marcus & Regalado law firm, said Pike will have to prove he has a psychiatric injury that is a result of his former job as a UC Davis police lieutenant.

“He could get some level of permanent disability compensation as a result of one specific incident or the cumulative effect of all he went through,” Hopcraft said. “But the legislature has made it very difficult to prove psychiatric injury or any injury that is not physically evident.”

UC Davis public affairs director Andy Fell said that the university’s lawyers are scheduled to engage in a discussion with Pike’s representatives about what benefits, if any, are owed to the former police lieutenant.

“We are not in agreement on benefits being claimed,” Fell said. “A workers’ compensation claim was filed, and the university is required to follow the California workers’ compensation process.”

A UC task force investigated Pike, another officer and former UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza following an incident in November 2011 between police and Occupy protesters on the UC Davis campus. The officers used pepper spray on the group of protesting students during the nationwide Occupy movement, contributing to a public debate about the appropriate use of force against student protesters.

The Reynoso task force reported in April 2012 that “Lieutenant Pike’s use of force in pepper spraying seated protesters was objectively unreasonable.”

On July 24, the 1st District Court of Appeals in California ruled in favor of a suit filed in May by the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee that the UC Regents and Federated University Police Officers Association cannot withhold the identities of the other police officers involved in the Nov. 11 pepper-spray incident as per the Freedom of Information Act.

The other officers’ identities will not be disclosed for at least 40 days, in the event that the FUPOA appeals the court’s decision.

Contact Stephanie Petrillo at [email protected].