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UC Motto should be: Where’s mine?

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POSTED August 2, 2013 1:22 a.m.

John Pike — the University of California, Davis police lieutenant whom the university fired for pepper spraying Occupy protesters Nov. 18, 2011 — has filed a workers’ compensation claim based on a “psychiatric injury.” UC should change its motto from “Fiat lux” (“Let there be light”) to “Fiat meum” (“Where’s mine?”).

The protesters got theirs when they sued the University of Deep Pockets.

Ironically, they were protesting rising tuition while telling themselves they were underdogs who courageously stood up to authority. Please, their demands for more state money were in perfect harmony with the aspirations of UC brass. Protesters set up camp and linked arms — illegally blocking egress on public space — because that’s what they had to do to get arrested.

Pike warned protesters that if they didn’t move, officers would pepper spray them. For about 30 seconds captured on video, Pike and another officer took turns spraying the chemical irritant on protesters’ faces before removing them from the quad. Eleven students were treated for side effects; two were hospitalized.

UC brass launched three investigations on top of two Yolo County probes. That’s five investigations for an incident memorialized on video. A task force headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso intoned that the incident “should and could have been prevented.” Those probes cost UC about $1 million.

The Yolo County district attorney noted that officers may use pepper spray when they encounter “active” resistance, but Pike’s conduct “was not objectively reasonable,” even if officers believed they were surrounded by a hostile mob. The DA also said there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges. By then, UC Davis had fired Pike.

Eventually, the American Civil Liberties Union and 21 students won a $1 million settlement, which awarded $30,000 per student plaintiff, $250,000 to the ACLU and $100,000 to other claimants. The deal also required that the university assist students so traumatized that their academic performance was harmed.

Now, apparently, it’s the cop’s turn.

I have a lot of sympathy for Pike. Chancellor Linda Katehi told campus police to remove the tents and then distanced herself from the raid. According to one probe, Pike challenged the legality of the administration’s order to remove tents during the day.

After the pepper spray video went viral, the “hacktivist” group Anonymous publicized Pike’s phone number and home address. According to his union, Pike became the recipient of 17,000 angry or threatening emails and unwanted magazines and food deliveries, which forced Pike to move his family and change his phone number.

Also, Pike’s notoriety lessens the likelihood that the former Marine sergeant and Sacramento cop will work in law enforcement again.

That said, Pike earned a pretty penny — $110,243 in 2010 — as a campus cop. The school suspended him for eight months with pay before firing him.

If Pike wanted to sue for wrongful termination, I’d understand. But workers’ comp? That puts him on a par with students so traumatized by seconds of being pepper sprayed that they blew a semester.

Maybe Pike figured that if students breaking the law to protest rising tuition can cash in, so can the officer whose main crime was thinking that campus cops are supposed to enforce the law.

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