Cruz Reynoso Disputes Internal Findings, Supports Chief Carmichael’s Decision to Fire Lt. Pike

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University sources, citing privacy and personnel issues, are declining to comment on a report in the Sacramento Bee this morning that the UC Davis Police Chief overruled two internal investigations in order to fire Lt. John Pike.  The report is based on a leaked confidential 76-page internal affairs investigation report and emails.

Sacramento Bee reporter Sam Stanton declined to divulge the source of the leak, stating, “I do not reveal or discuss sources.”

Reported the Bee this morning, “Pike was fired Tuesday after UC Davis Police Chief Matthew Carmichael rejected the findings and wrote in a letter to Pike that ‘the needs of the department do not justify your continued employment,’ according to the documents.”

The report was conducted by a Sacramento law firm that the university has not been able to disclose thus far, and a private investigator hired by UC Davis.  The report, date March 1, was reportedly “completed after interviews with at least 27 police officers, including Pike, as well as university leadership going all the way up to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.”

“For reasons detailed in this report, we conclude that Lieutenant Pike’s use of pepper spray was reasonable under the circumstances,” the report states. “The visual of Lieutenant Pike spraying the seated protesters is indeed disturbing.

“However, it also fails to tell other important parts of the story.”

Cruz Reynoso, whose task force reviewed the report written by former LA Police Chief William Bratton and his firm, Kroll, strongly disputed the validity of the findings.

“Based on the newspaper accounts… it appears that the review was superficial and reached an incorrect conclusion that Lt. Pike had acted correctly under the circumstances,” Cruz Reynoso said.

He added, “As the Task Force concluded, the Pepper Spray never should have been utilized under those circumstances.  There was absolutely no danger to the officers and they could have executed their duties in a completely legal proper way without using pepper spray.”

Another source who spoke with the Vanguard under the condition that they not be identified said that the law firm hired by the university lacked the expertise of the Kroll Team to conduct an investigation into a complex matter such as the pepper-spray incident.

The Bee reports, “The report found that Pike had repeatedly warned students who had gathered on the Quad to protest rising tuition costs that they would be pepper-sprayed if they did not disperse, and that ‘the police officers were fully encircled by protesters who had locked arms and would not let the officers exit.’ “

However, the Vanguard‘s source argues that this is a lay opinion, that warning the students was sufficient to compel the use of force.

The source added that the internal review which spoke with 27 police officers appeared to accept their word without scrutiny.

In addition, the source indicated that internal affairs investigations are notoriously biased in favor of the police officers.  The source explained that part of that rationale was the monetary incentive to avoid publicly ruling against the agency that faces liability and public scrutiny for the actions of the officers in their employment.

The report largely exonerates Lt. Pike, but there are notes of criticism.

For example, the Bee reports that Lt. Pike “had ‘temporarily rendered himself ineffective’ in his role as the incident commander – a duty he assumed when he decided he needed to take charge – when he began taking down tents, physically separating students from each other and, ultimately, deploying his canister of pepper spray.”

Lt. Pike’s calm demeanor has drawn criticism, as well.

“Video images of Pike calmly shaking his canister of pepper spray and unleashing it on students have been viewed millions of times on the Internet,” the Bee writes.  “Investigators asked him to explain what they said was the public view of his ‘nonchalant demeanor.’ “

“I take my job very seriously,” he told them. “Any, any – any application of force – umm – for me it’s not a – it’s not a thrill ride – it’s not – ‘woo hoo, this is gonna be fun, I get to hurt somebody.’ That’s not it.”

The Bee reports that Lt. Pike “viewed it as applying ‘a tool on them to gain compliance, so that I can get my troops out of there, my suspects out of there, and get a job done.’ “

Reports the Bee: “The internal affairs investigators, who reviewed more than 6,000 pages of emails, videos of the disturbance and other material, concluded there was a ‘preponderance of evidence’ to support Pike’s action.”

“Lieutenant Pike’s deployment of pepper spray was reasonable under the circumstances,” the report states.

Next, however, a panel comprised of a UC Davis police captain and the campus chief compliance officer reviewed the report and issued its own recommendations.

They recommended, according to the Bee, “an exonerated finding as to the charge alleging that Lt. Pike’s use of force may have been excessive under the circumstances.”

On the other hand, the board was critical of his actions that “were not reasonable and prudent under the circumstances in view of his rank and responsibilities at the time.”

Notably, they find that Lt. Pike “had ‘multiple opportunities’ to minimize the escalation of tensions and that ‘serious errors of judgment and deficiencies of leadership’ required that he face discipline ranging from a demotion to a suspension of at least two weeks.”

The Bee reports that on April 27, Chief Carmichael informed Lt. Pike of his intention to fire him.

Writes the Bee: “Carmichael concluded that Pike had assumed the role of de facto commander of the operation ‘but performed it poorly’ and that the ‘manner in which you used the pepper spray showed poor judgment’ given the direction that minimal force was to be used.”

“The Operation caused damage to the campus and the Department,” the Bee reported that Chief Carmichael wrote. “It is my judgment that you bear significant responsibility for that outcome.”

One of the key factors is Lt. Pike’s insistence that he would have performed the same actions if faced again with the same circumstances.

Chief Carmichael wrote: “Knowing this information, you stated when interviewed that there is nothing you would do differently. Faced with the same circumstances, you would still have deployed the pepper spray.”

The ACLU’s Michael Risher, citing ongoing litigation with the university and an upcoming mediation session, declined to go into specifics about the current findings.

However, he did note that in California there are many cases where internal affairs will clear an officer of any wrongdoing, “and then a more independent investigation” will make “it perfectly clear than an officer’s conduct was inappropriate, often unconstitutional and the officer should have been disciplined.”

“That’s a huge problem because it decreases the deterrent effect of the disciplinary system,” he added.  “It [also] decreases public confidence in our police force.”

Most of the time, he noted, these proceedings are secrets, though occasionally it will come out that an officer has or has not been disciplined.

“Unless there’s a leak, we hear absolutely nothing about the process that led up the decision maker’s decision,” Mr. Risher told the Vanguard.

He added, “There’s often a reluctance to impose discipline where discipline is really warranted.”

One of the key questions is whether the act of the chief overruling the internal affairs recommendation was unusual in this case.

Michael Risher argued that this was a difficult question, given the lack of reliable data and the secret nature of such investigations.

Mr. Richer concluded, “The idea that police departments adequately police themselves has been shown again and again to be a complete fallacy.  History has shown us that police departments do a horrible job of disciplining their own officers for their conduct.”

Cruz Reynoso stands by the report that his task force, made up of faculty, administrators, students, and community members, unanimously agreed to back in April.

“The conclusion [of the internal affairs report] is 100% wrong,” Cruz Reynoso said.  “And I think the decision of the police chief to fire him was correct.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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25 Comments

  1. 91 Octane

    “Cruz Reynoso, whose task force reviewed the report written by former LA Police Chief William Bratton and his firm, Kroll, strongly disputed the validity of the findings.”

    Reynoso is not god so I don’t give a crap.

  2. Ryan Kelly

    Lt. Pike’s mentions his concern for his “troops.” He was honored earlier for another incident at the UCD med center where he decided against using pepper spray, and instead physically and violently tackled an elderly, knife-wielding, female patient, because he “didn’t want to injure his partners” with pepper spray in close quarters. This focus on protecting his “troops” must come from his experience as a soldier fighting a war.

    However, we hired him, and paid him very well, to protect the students as a priority. He doesn’t get the difference and is therefore not a good fit for the department. Chief Carmichael made the right decision.

  3. Phil Coleman

    Judge Reynoso: “There was absolutely no danger to the officers . .”

    There is no apparent dispute to the reports of the arrest team with prisoners being surrounded by bystanders and protesters, and being told by the crowd that they would be allowed to depart if the prisoners were released.

    I would offer that that set of circumstances does not support the notion of the officers being in absolutely no danger.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    As a witness, I can state that officers with weapons and dressed in riot gear were in absolutely no danger from a 20 foot line of seated, unarmed students in the middle of a 2 acre park. If the officers truly felt that they were closed in and in danger, they made no attempts to address or warn or spray the ring of standing spectators with their cell phone cameras running. They focused their attention only the seated students and there was absolutely no danger there.

  5. dlemongello

    But also, we all know that the spray used was illegal and miss used if it had been legal. That makes it 2 more steps removed from being OK to deploy.

  6. 91 Octane

    It was very clear the reynoso and kroll reports were not exactly unbiased – at no point did any of those address student’s conduct or its contribution to the situation. If they had, their criticism of the police would have been easier to stomach. So what we have are two types of reports – one pro-police and one anti-police.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    I get how you can believe that Reynoso might be be biased. But on his task force were professors and administrators and they all agreed. More importantly, what would Kroll – a bunch of retired police officers led by the former Chief from LA – what would their bias be? Why would they be anti-police?

  8. eagle eye

    Will the Vanguard request a copy of the 76 page report now that it’s been “released” to the Bee? If one party receives a copy, seems like others become entitled to it.

  9. 91 Octane

    there was obviously an assumption in the reports that the protestors themselves would not be the subject of scrutiny. Yet they clearly were a large part of the problem.

  10. Iyah

    Cruz Reynoso is a highly respected and honored, former California Supreme Court Justice. I don’t believe those of you who comment on his prejudice have truly ever met the man or know his distinguished career. Someone doesn’t just rise to the level of Supreme Court Justice because they are prejudiced against police or the district attorney. Maybe it’s time for you some of you to truly question what is happening in Yolo County.

  11. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Cruz Reynoso is a highly respected and honored, former California Supreme Court Justice. I don’t believe those of you who comment on his prejudice have truly ever met the man or know his distinguished career. Someone doesn’t just rise to the level of Supreme Court Justice because they are prejudiced against police or the district attorney. Maybe it’s time for you some of you to truly question what is happening in Yolo County.[/quote]

    The issue is not the DA or the criminal justice system. The fact of the matter is that Reynoso was charged with looking at only one side of the dispute, and was not asked to look into the culpability of the students. Some of us would have preferred a more balanced approach…

  12. E Roberts Musser

    Jeff Boone summed up the issue very nicely with an excellent quote in a previous post which I felt was worth repeating:

    [quote]Jeff Boone: The larger moral issue here is the witch hunt. It is because these protesters and their supporters are seeking retribution by demanding people lose their jobs. That is the real malice I see. And, because of it, it amplifies the original malice of their methods of protest. If this is the type of end game we are going to see, then I have zero tollerence for their so called “peaceful” civil disobedience. There is nothing peaceful about demanding people get fired for making mistakes in judgement dealing with a crisis caused by the very people demanding the firing.[/quote]

  13. medwoman

    While I am no fan of people losing their jobs and have stated a number of times that I would favor demotion, retraining and options such as community service for miscreants on both sides of this issue, I would post the following questions to both Jeff and Elaine:

    1) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for administrators who fail so miserably in their assessment and handling of a situation ?

    2) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for a chief of police that is functionally unable to lead those under her ?

    3) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for police who choose to use weapons that are not approved for the situation and in the use of which they are not trained ?

    Should there be no consequences at all ?
    The term “witch hunt” is most commonly used to describe a situation in which innocents are accused of wrong doing. I do not see, at least according to the findings of the Reynoso and Kroll investigations,, that any innocents are being accused, even if you consider the “crime” to be only incompetence. If you do, who do you think they are….and why ?

  14. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]1) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for administrators who fail so miserably in their assessment and handling of a situation ?

    2) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for a chief of police that is functionally unable to lead those under her ?

    3) What do you think should be appropriate consequences for police who choose to use weapons that are not approved for the situation and in the use of which they are not trained ? [/quote]

    Thoughtful questions.
    1) I don’t know that Katehi failed miserably – we never quite found out exactly what she told the campus police to do or not to do. I don’t feel I have enough information to make an assessment. But let’s assume for argument’s sake that Katehi failed miserably. Then I think you have to look at the circumstances surrounding the particular case. Here we have someone who was goaded into her actions by an unruly group of students (see Jeff’s comments above – it sums up my view of the students in this mess); yes her actions were not the best, but since she has no history of doing this sort of thing, I think she gets a pass this time. I’m assuming she wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, bc it appears for all intents and purposes that a better system is now in place (at least I hope so). If something like this were to happen again, then I’d be all for firing her.
    2) In so far as Spicuzza is concerned, we never found out if her hands were tied by Katehi. Spicuzza may just have taken the fall for Katehi. Again, I don’t think I have enough information to make an assessment. But let’s for argument’s sake say that Katehi gave the head of the campus police a free hand, and the head of the campus police was such a weak leader that s/he just could not manage to control those people under him/her in rank. In such a situation, I would say the head of the campus police was incompetent and did not belong in the job.
    3) We don’t know why the police had such weapons or why they were deployed. Again, I don’t feel as if I have enough information on this issue. Assuming the police specifically chose to use weapons not approved for the situation, and there was no legitimate reason for them to be in the hands of the police for use, I would certainly punish harshly. Not sure I would fire the police – it would depend on the officer’s past record, what type of weapon we are talking about, and whether it actually was used and caused real harm.

  15. medwoman

    Elaine

    Thoughtful reply. Which brings up a couple of thoughts for me especially in view of your recent identification of yourself as a skeptic on another thread.

    1) [quote]Here we have someone who was goaded into her actions by an unruly group of students[/quote]
    If it is true that she was “goaded into her actions”, then we have a problem of leadership right from the start.
    One of the hallmarks of a leader is that they must be able to separate their emotions from the situation and
    act in a responsible reasoned manner, especially when others are not. If one believes the Reynoso and Kroll
    investigations, this did not occur.

    2) [quote]bc it appears for all intents and purposes that a better system is now in place (at least I hope so)[/quote]

    What makes you believe that this is the case ? Are you aware of a formal ( written and publicly disseminated)
    plan restructuring the leadership team in such a way as to address the stated deficiencies in the reports ?

    3) [quote]We don’t know why the police had such weapons or why they were deployed.[/quote]
    And I would say that this is a moot point. Even if there were a new piece of equipment in my OR available to me,
    I would not use it until I had been thoroughly trained in its use. The finding that the officers had not been trained
    in the use of this particular spray, let alone that it was not approved, is stand alone evidence of at least
    negligence if not complete incompetence.

    It is interesting to me again how differently we view the world. You tend to be very skeptical of those who question
    and challenge from positions of relatively little power ( the Vanguard, the press in general, the students) and place a great deal of faith and willingness to make allowances for those in power. I am much more skeptical of those who have power and authority and much more trusting of those who are doing the challenging.
    We might both be better served by looking at the actions of both sides through the same lens.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If it is true that she was “goaded into her actions”, then we have a problem of leadership right from the start. [/quote]

    I wouldn’t disagree w this assessment. However, I am willing to give her one more chance to get it right. Do you feel she should have been fired over this?

    [quote]What makes you believe that this is the case ? Are you aware of a formal ( written and publicly disseminated)
    plan restructuring the leadership team in such a way as to address the stated deficiencies in the reports ?
    [/quote]

    For instance, the university police are now no longer under the administration of John Meyer. I honestly don’t think Katehi would make the same mistakes, and the university better understands the requirements of command and control. I think what was needed was education on this issue. I don’t think the university was even aware of the command and control requirement – which is puzzling.

    [quote]The finding that the officers had not been trained
    in the use of this particular spray, let alone that it was not approved, is stand alone evidence of at least
    negligence if not complete incompetence. [/quote]

    So negligence requires someone to be fired?

    [quote]It is interesting to me again how differently we view the world. You tend to be very skeptical of those who question
    and challenge from positions of relatively little power ( the Vanguard, the press in general, the students) and place a great deal of faith and willingness to make allowances for those in power. I am much more skeptical of those who have power and authority and much more trusting of those who are doing the challenging. [/quote]

    I disagree w your assessments about my skepticism. I have been skeptical of both sides on this issue. I just wasn’t willing to speculate on what the results would be BEFORE I knew all the information. I still don’t feel I have enough information to make an honest assessment. For instance, I want to know what specific orders Katehi gave to law enforcement. We still don’t have that question answered.

    My problem w the Vanguard coverage has been there was too much speculation, innuendo, and no willingness to concede students behavior in goading law enforcement in any way contributed to the entire mess.

    That said, I would prefer to allow those who made mistakes on all sides be allowed to learn from those mistakes without losing their jobs. Discipline, yes, loss of job, no. Jeff Boone made this point before – the purpose of some of the student agitators was to get people fired – and I find that dispicable. Let me go a step further in that explanation. There is a situation in criminal law that says an aggressor who instigates an incident cannot then claim self-defense. This analogy is apt. The students have little right to cry foul if their intent was to get people fired by goading them into a fight.

    That said, I also recognize that students are not fully “baked”, and therefore need to be given more consideration from campus law enforcement/campus administration. Hence my reasoning as to why pepper spray in this instance was highly inappropriate.

    Just curious – would you have fired Yudoff? Katehi? Meyer? Smallwood? Pike? Lee? The only one I might have fired is Pike, depending on his background and the circumstances. Because he did say he would do it again if given the same set of circumstances does indicate to me he doesn’t “get it”. He has no business being a campus police officer. So it seems quite appropriate that he was fired. But that is as far as I would go. Katehi probably should have gotten a gentle public reprimand from Yudoff. But I wonder if she could have been an effective leader after that, and is part of the reason they did not do so. They might have figured the public humiliation had been enough of a censure.

  17. medwoman

    Elaine

    [quote]Do you feel she should have been fired over this? [/quote]
    As I have stated over and over, I am not sure anyone ( with the possible, note the word, possible) exception of
    Lt. Pike should have been fired over this. I don’t pretend to have enough information to know. But I do think it reasonable to continue questioning and not just assume that the university will handle it appropriately.

    [quote] I honestly don’t think Katehi would make the same mistakes,[/quote]
    Do you have a evidence to support this belief ?

    [quote]So negligence requires someone to be fired?
    [/quote]
    Again, this is an assertion I have never made. However, my response is, that would depend. If it is a first time problem, no. If it has been a repetitive performance problem and demonstrated not to be remediable, yes.

    [quote]The students have little right to cry foul if their intent was to get people fired by goading them into a fight. [/quote]

    In the case of students whose intent was to provoke in order to get people fired, I would agree. However, there were some posting on this blog who claimed that this was the intent of the students without any knowledge of the students’ goals at all. Unless they had interviewed the individual students they really would not know and are free to let their preconceived stereotypes about what individual protesters must be thinking dictate their judgements. I suspect there was a range of intent represented that day and that not all protesters should be
    portrayed as having the same set of motivations. I think that the protesters should be judged as individuals, just as you are arguing for separate assessment of the members of the administration.

    [quote]Because he did say he would do it again if given the same set of circumstances does indicate to me he doesn’t “get it”.[/quote]

    This is the standard that I think should have been used in the decision of how to handle each of the individuals you named. “Where do you feel you went wrong, and what steps do you intend to take to improve your performance in the future ?” Satisfactory responses to these questions should guide the next steps.
    For the individual who cannot conceive that they had any fault in this situation and would act the same again, I feel that dismissal is likely the only logical step since they would have demonstrated a profound lack of insight and judgement. For those that can outline their errors in judgement and accept remedial steps, I think those options are entirely appropriate, again unless this is a repetitive pattern.

  18. E Roberts Musser

    To medwoman: It seems we are in almost complete agreement, despite the fact that you tend to be somewhat left of center and I am somewhat right of center, altho neither of us very far from center I suspect (probably depends on the issue). I really don’t think the pepper-spraying incident is necessarily a political issue, but one of common sense. We both seem to have come to pretty much the same conclusions.

    The only real problem I have with things transpiring has to do with Spicuzza, and only bc I happen to have had some very positive interaction w her on one particular issue. I would really like to know if Spicuzza truly was not able to control those under her, or the administration interfered to such an extent that the options Spicuzza was left with to discipline those under her left her virtually toothless. I would hate to think Spicuzza was in effect thrown under the proverbial bus, to save Katehi’s career “for the good of the university”. But of course, we will probably never know the answer to that question…

  19. medwoman

    Elaine,

    I had come to much the same conclusion myself, at least as regards this issue. It occurred to me from many of your posts that we both favored a nuanced view and felt that retraining and or community service would probably be more appropriate than prosecution and firings.
    I had no experience at all and no knowledge of Spicuzza prior to this event. What came to mind for me, because of what I do is an attending physician who loses control of a surgery, does not appropriately supervise a resident to the detriment of the patient. I realize the situations are not directly comparable, but that is still the lens through which I saw her situation.

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