After UC-Davis Police Lt. John Pike was shown pepper-spraying peaceful students five months ago, the biggest question on the minds of some people was how quickly the guy would be fired. Due to union rules, though, Pike is still on the job and it’s unlikely he’ll ever be fired.
It was pretty clear to anybody who watched the initial video that Pike was way out of line, but it’s become clear since then that he and the school were even more in the wrong than we realized at the time. In fact, the official investigation into the incident shows that there wasn’t even any legal basis for police or college officials to demand the students leave the school’s quad.
At the time, we all thought the students were engaging in civil disobedience. The actions of Pike and other police that day were clearly excessive, but we assumed that the order to disperse was legal. It turns out that it wasn’t even a legal order. So there wasn’t a legal basis for asking the students to leave and the official report faults Pike with bad judgement and unprofessionalism for the pepper-spraying and other things that day. So why is he still employed?
In California, police unions have negotiated due process rights that ordinary citizens would never be allowed. First, the official report of the incident by the university can’t be used against Pike. The only thing that can be taken into account is an internal affairs investigation done by two former police officers and an attorney. Pike refused to cooperate and his superior likewise refused to be interviewed by the investigators. And the panel isn’t allowed to use any information that it didn’t gather itself.
Their methods are secret. After the report is prepared, it won’t be made public. It will be submitted to a committee to certify that it was conducted properly. Even then, there’s no guarantee that any action will be taken based on what they might find. The public will never have any idea what happens. The only thing we know is that Pike is still employed. It seems unlikely that will change.
It’s ironic that Pike is going to be protected by his union-negotiated rules. Unions are pretty tightly allied with the progressive left agenda of the Occupy movement. Those who advocate for unions don’t seem to understand what they really stand for and how much power they really have, especially among government workers.
It’s theoretically possible that Pike will be disciplined, I suppose, but the rules are set up to protect him and I see no reason to believe he won’t get away with it. The interests of the union is keeping jobs for its members at all costs. Justice and public safety are completely irrelevant — and that’s why this law should be changed and why naive people need to realize that unions aren’t the saintly organizations they believe.