The Pepper-Spraying Cop's Long, Lucrative Goodbye

UC Davis is able to say little more than that Lt. John Pike no longer works for the university, after spending months on paid leave.
 

Lt. John Pike won't have the mucous membranes of college students to spritz with chemical agents anymore. "The UC Davis police officer who became a focal point of last November's pepper-spraying incident during a campus protest is no longer employed by the university," The Sacramento Bee reported.

The article cites a university spokesman who couldn't say much more:

UC Davis spokesman Barry Shiller said he could not discuss the details of Pike's departure .... "Consistent with privacy guidelines established in state law and university policy, I can confirm that John Pike's employment with the university ended on July 31, 2012," Shiller said. "I'm unable to comment further." Pike, 39, declined to comment when reached by The Bee as he was sitting in a meeting on campus where he said he was being terminated.

This is standard fare, though I fail to see why Americans have created a system where it's verboten to tell the truth about the reason the employment status of people paid by the taxpayer changes.

As of 2010, Lt. Pike's salary was listed at $110,243.12*. Using that figure as an approximation of how much he was compensated this year (note we're excluding benefits and pension) think about what that means: by my calculation, he spent 256 days on paid leave. That's roughly $77,170 in salary that taxpayers paid him, getting nothing in return. Is that a prudent way to spend public resources? Or would it make more sense to have a system where Lt. Pike could have been publicly fired by UC Davis months sooner, upon the release of independent reports concluding that he behaved badly?

*Nathan Brown of the UC Davis English Department, one of the professors who objected to the pepper-spraying, earned $64,505 that same year -- less than Lt. Pike earned during his paid leave. The median household income in California that year was $60,883.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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