Officer John Pike — known as “pepper spray cop” for casually spraying nonviolent protesters during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement — will be awarded $38,000 for psychiatric injuries from the University of California, Davis, a judge determined this month. His payout, Conor Friedersdorf notes, is slightly bigger than what the 21 protesters individually received from UC for the police brutality.
Pike, fired for the incident, had afterward filed a workers compensation claim that he “suffered depression and anxiety over the way he was treated in the wake of the incident.” He also said he received numerous death threats after his personal information was exposed online.
Pike’s workers compensation claim alleges that he “suffered unspecified psychiatric and nervous system damage, though the document did not explain how he claimed to have been harmed.” News reports indicate that the circumstances of his firing “caused him severe anxiety and depression, leading to the worker’s compensation claim.” To the extent that Pike’s anxiety and depression resulted from the fact that he was fired, however, California law does not appear to allow him to be compensated for those injuries. The state’s labor law provides that “[n]o compensation . . . shall be paid by an employer for a psychiatric injury if the injury was substantially caused by lawful, non-discriminatory good faith personnel action.”
Though the most famous figure of the police crackdown on Occupy, Pike was not the only person responsible. At UC, Chancellor Linda Katehi issued the order to remove the encampment, and later refused to resign. She remains at the university today, while Pike and a second officer were soon put on paid administrative leave.
While outside reports condemned the police action, somehow, the university’s internal investigation determined that Pike “acted reasonably” because he warned the sitting protesters they were about to be pepper sprayed. UC has since formally apologized to the students who suffered.