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UC Davis chief overruled pepper-spray panel

Posted: August 2, 2012 6:00 p.m.
Updated: August 2, 2012 6:00 p.m.

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DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — The police chief at the University of California, Davis, overruled an internal affairs panel's recommendation and fired a lieutenant who soaked demonstrators with pepper spray — an incident that sparked protests after it was recorded and posted online, according to documents obtained by a newspaper.

The Sacramento Bee (http://sacb.ee/MABZrq ) reports that investigators concluded Lt. John Pike acted reasonably during the Nov. 18 campus protest and should face demotion or suspension at worst.

But police Chief Matthew Carmichael rejected those findings and wrote Pike on April 27 that he planned to fire him. Pike, 39, was fired Tuesday, according to the Bee.

"The needs of the department do not justify your continued employment," Carmichael wrote in a letter to Pike, according to the documents, which included the internal affairs investigation report.

Pike and the university declined to comment to the Bee.

The internal affairs report concedes the widely viewed video showing Pike spraying seated protesters is disturbing.

But investigators concluded that Pike, who was interviewed for the internal affairs report, repeatedly warned students protesting tuition hikes that they would be pepper-sprayed if they didn't leave the area.

Even before the incident, the report says Pike had concerns about the operation, and about university officials' plans to remove the protesters.

When investigators asked Pike to explain his perceived "nonchalant demeanor," the lieutenant said he may have appeared relaxed because he is a professional but felt using the pepper spray was "appropriate"

"I take my job very seriously," the report quoted Pike as saying. "Any, any - any application of force - umm - for me it's not a - it's not a thrill ride - it's not - 'woo hoo, this is gonna be fun, I get to hurt somebody.' That's not it."

An independent probe led by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso concluded that Pike's use of pepper-spray was unreasonable. Pike did not cooperate with that review.

Annette Spicuzza, the police chief who oversaw the UC Davis police department during the pepper spray incident, stepped down in April.

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