John Bakhit, who represents Lt. John Pike and the Federated University Police Officers Association, suddenly broke his silence and indicated the Reynosos report was “going to surprise a lot of people,” in an article in the local newspaper that will be published today.
The question we are now left to ponder in the hours before the actual report is released is whether Mr. Bakhit is giving us a sneak preview of what is in the report, or his preemptive strike trying to diffuse what many believe will be a very critical assessment of what occurred on November 18.
In his interview with the paper, we can see evidence of both.
He tells the reporter: “The impression out there in the public was that (the police union was) trying to hold back facts that were very negative toward police officers… That’s not necessarily the case. It was a matter of adherence to the law. When you look at the report as a whole, we actually believe it’s going to help the officers.”
We cannot discount that there might be an element of truth to this and, in fact, we will not know for sure until noon today when the report is posted.
We know that initially the suit was filed prior to the release of the report. On the other hand, the police union probably had a reasonable idea of what the interviewed officers told the Kroll investigators.
We fail to see what was gained by this exercise other than the redaction of the officers names, which would only really matter if they had something to hide. So while there may be some truth to this, we do not see anything compelling in the law itself, and in fact, they allowed the legal issue of the disputed material to drop in exchange for the redaction of names.
Mr. Bakhit then went on to argue that their concern was for the officers’ safety. We don’t dispute that, although most of the material in dispute had little to do with officer safety and more to do with the legal issue of what constituted a personnel record.
He told the paper: “We accomplished that goal… Based on that, there’s really no need to take a chance by moving forward with an appeal. The other side also agreed not to appeal the redacting of the officers’ names, so we’re content with where we are right now.”
That is a sugar-coated assessment. They probably could have had that issue a month ago. Instead, what most legal observers believe is that they realize they would lose and they realized that holding up the release of the report made it look like they had something to hide.
This marks a change of strategy, where they allow the release and argue that the report aids them.
He continues: “It’s not a one-way road attacking police officers’ actions… It is a review of the entire course of events from the top down.”
This part rings true, as a good report should critically analyze the mistakes that the students and officers made.
Mr. Bakhit told the paper that Lt. Pike and others may give their story publicly, but only after the DA’s office determines whether it will file criminal charges against the officers.
He told the paper: “Realistically, I don’t see anything happening with the criminal investigation, but until we have something in writing I won’t even allow (Pike) to consider (speaking publicly).”
We agree with this. We do not believe there will be criminal charges filed, although as we have argued previously, we think assault charges are warranted here.
Mr. Bakhit said that the officers are eager to come back to work and that Lt. Pike wants to return to campus. We do not believe this will be possible, given the anger toward him.
“The use of force really boils down to the state of mind of the person who used the force,” he said. “Based on that, and based on everything that occurred that day, we feel (Pike) did not do anything wrong.
“However, let’s take it a step further, for the sake of argument: Even if it were deemed that his actions were wrong it does not rise to the level of a termination or anything that severe.”
Again, that appears to be spin. First, he’s saying that the report exonerates Lt. Pike or at least suggests as much. Then he argues that “we,” meaning the attorneys for the police union, do not feel Lt. Pike did anything wrong. But then he says, even if it were deemed his actions were wrong, he should not be fired for it. Which is it? Either you know the contents of the report and they exonerate him, or they don’t.
That leads me to believe that this is the spin offered by the attorney for the accused. That is certainly his job to do. It would have been nice to have seen the report press him on that seeming inconsistency, but we will all know for ourselves in a few hours.
A final point that needs to be made here is that the least illuminating part of this report will be the critical analysis of events leading up to the pepper-spray incident itself. The reason for that is that, for the most part, we watched the incident unfold on video and while clearly differing views are reached, for the most part we know what happened at the scene.
The most valuable parts of this report will be to find out what calls the upper administration made, to determine what recommendations should be made. I think that is one of the most important points, to help develop a consistent policy response for civil disobedience, which quite obviously is a persistent problem for UC Davis in particular, but law enforcement in general.
Finally, we need some sort of determination as to whether the use of force was reasonable in this case. However, I think it is going to be difficult to convince people that Lt. Pike and others acted appropriately.
That I don’t see. That should not be read to suggest that the protesters are blameless and that their actions did not contribute to the ultimate outcome – they certainly did.
However, in this case, the use of pepper spray on seated protesters who are resisting passively goes too far and it will take a lot to convince most people in this community otherwise.
As such, we tend to see this as spin, with the attorney attempting to minimize culpability for his client(s). We’ll find out finally in a few hours.
—David M. Greenwald reporting