The chief of police at the University of California Davis will resign so the school can move on from a ghastly incident last year that ended with one of her officers becoming known around the world as the “pepper spray cop.”
The revelation was made by Chief Annette Spicuzza herself in an email last night to a Sacramento newspaper. She and Lt. John Pike have been on leave since late November, after Pike deployed streams of pepper spray on Nov. 18 against a group of about 20 student protesters who were sitting on the pavement demonstrating against recent tuition hikes. Two were hospitalized following the incident, and 11 more were treated for exposure.
“My 27 years in law enforcement have been dedicated to the ethical and committed service to the departments and communities I have been proud to be a part of,” she told The Sacramento Bee. “For the past seven years, I have accomplished many good things for both the Police Department and community here at UC Davis; and am grateful to those of you who have remembered this.”
Spicuzza added that she did not want the incident to be a “defining moment” for the university or her own career.
The incident, which was filmed and distributed widely via viral videos, made Lt. Pike famous as the “pepper spray cop,” an almost instant character of police abuses that was quickly turned into a never-ending series of images featuring him suppressing famous people at key moments in history.
The uproar and outrage over Pike’s actions was so quick and so furious that UC Davis officials promised just one day later to launch an investigation, but local politicians went further and demanded an independent task force probe the university’s response.
That probe, led by retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, concluded last week (PDF) that the university’s leadership, including Chief Spicuzza, failed on a number of levels. The report called their decision-making process “dysfunctional,” and noted there were no clear structural rules delineating authority to school officials or police.
“We will immediately begin to study and assess the report’s recommendations and develop a detailed response and action plan,” Chancellor Linda Katehi wrote in response (PDF) to the report. “…Let me assure you that in doing so, we will ensure that students’ safety and free-speech rights are paramount.”
Days after Pike pepper-sprayed students, Katehi faced a stunning silent protest after hundreds of students surrounded the administration building and waited for her to exit. They just sat and watched her when she finally emerged, much to Katehi’s obvious discomfort, and video of the incident was distributed widely.
Protesters say they still want to see the chancellor resign.
Image: Screengrab via YouTube.