The infamous Lieutenant John Pike, who so nonchalantly sprayed weapons-grade pepper spray into the faces of seated, peacefully protesting students at U.C. Davis is reportedly no longer employed at the university. This is good news for any students who might wish to exercise their free speech and right to assemble in the future, but why has he not been disciplined for his excessive use of force? It is not clear whether or not he was fired or if he resigned. At the time of the incident he claimed that he felt trapped by a hostile crowd, but photos, video, and an internal report at the school show otherwise. He is seen stepping over the line of seated students and brandishing a large canister of pepper spray like a trophy before unleashing a torrent of spray directly into their faces at nearly point-blank range, despite the minimum firing distance of six feet specified by the company who manufactures MK-9 pepper spray.

The pepper spray used in this incident causes extreme pain and respiratory effects that can be life-threatening for people with heart problems or asthma. The gross disregard for protocol and safe deployment of his weapon borders on criminal behavior. Several of the students are now suing UC Davis and Pike. Pike had been on paid leave, drawing his regular salary for eight months; he made$121,680 annually. Now that he has left his position permanently, he has full rights to his retirement and has escaped major punishment, despite using an unsanctioned weapon improperly and without training. A second officer involved in the incident, whose name was not released, has also left UC Davis. The internal report found fault with school chancellor Linda Katehi and Pike’s direct supervisor, along with Officer Pike himself. An article in The Atlantic presents some of the reasons why we will never know what, if any, disciplinary actions were taken against the parties involved.

At the time of the UC Davis incident, the Occupy movement was in full force, with reports of excessive force and police brutality being reported all over the nation. Indeed, incidents of excessive force by officers of the law appear to be increasing. across the board, with few of the officers involved being convicted of crimes, or even losing their positions. Amnesty International estimates that over 500 Americans have died as result of being Tasered. Cops routinely shock unarmed, non-violent people, including pregnant women and a woman who questioned a traffic stop, right in front of their children!

From January 2010 through December 2010 the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project recorded 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct that involved 6,613 sworn law enforcement officers and 6,826 alleged victims. 23.8% of those incidents involved allegations of excessive force. 127 of those incidents resulted in fatalities. An interesting, and very disturbing finding by the project:

While the rate of police officers officially charged with murder is only 1.06% higher than the current general population murder rate, if excessive force complaints involving fatalities were prosecuted as murder the murder rate for law enforcement officers would exceed the general population murder rate by 472%.

Incidentally, the agency that logged the highest number of complaints of police misconduct is in Lee County, Florida-home of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin and escaped arrest until public outcry demanded an inquiry into the department’s decision not to arrest him.

Even when prosecuted, the conviction rates for officers are much lower than that of the general public. The same goes for length of sentences following successful prosecution.

Most police cars are equipped with dash cams, and a majority of people have phones capable of capturing images of police brutality as it occurs, such as the shocking video of Oscar Grant being shot in the back while lying cuffed on the ground. Despite this, officers often receive very light sentences if even prosecuted. Many are able to retain their jobs with a slap on the wrist. Grant’s killer, who claimed he thought he was tasering the young man, got two years. A regular person who exercised such gross negligence would have arguably received a much harsher sentence. Eddie Carr, whose young son found his gun and shot his younger brother to death by accident, received nearly seven years in prison for his negligence. Why would a trained officer of the law get less? Because of his service to the community?

 Officer Edward Krawetz got a suspended sentence for felony battery. Imagine what a private citizen would have gotten for kicking an unarmed, bound woman in the head!

Powerful images continue to circulate the internet and find their way onto the news. Knowing that many of these officers escape justice leads to a heightened sense of helplessness and anger among Americans. A recent decision by the Supreme Court has found that citizens can be strip-searched for minor offenses. Stop-and-frisk practices are on the rise in many metropolitan areas. Enhanced TSA searches, wireless wiretaps, and drones patrolling domestic skies lead some to feel that the U.S. is turning into a police state. Walking while black is as dangerous as ever, even for unarmed honors students like Jordan Miles, who was severely beaten for nothing.

jordanmiles 211x300 Police get paid vacations and overtime for gangland style beating of honors student
Jordan BEFORE meeting cops
jordan miles after 300x200 Police get paid vacations and overtime for gangland style beating of honors student
AFTER…Guess what the cops got for punishment? PAID leave AND overtime PAY!!

I am not out to demonize police officers. The vast majority of police do what they have vowed to do-protect and serve the public. But when bad cops and cops who exercise extremely poor judgment routinely get NO real punishment for abusing those they are supposed to serve, all cops get a bad rap. It makes their jobs more dangerous and it makes the public more distrustful of law enforcement. Citizens of the United States, land of the free, should be safe from abuse by those in power. Peaceful protesters shouldn’t be assaulted for exercising their rights granted by the Constitution. Unarmed citizens should not be shot  like dogs in the street or beaten to a bloody pulp. We can do much better than this.

84-year-old Dorli Rainey, Occupy protester

12 thoughts on “Police Officers Rarely Face Meaningful Punishment for Excessive Force and Brutality

  1. borders on criminal behavior? I’d say thish’ here Hombre done crossed that border some ways back.
    He crossed that border when he decided to become a cop. Anybody who wants to become a cop should automatically be disqualified for the position.
    I have been living in the same Maryland town of Aberdeen for the past ten years. I just recently moved out or I would not say this for fear of retaliation.
    I have witnessed people beaten, forced to the ground and kneeled on until they could not breath, children threatened with Police Weapons for riding their Dirt Bike where they shouldn’t, people required to show I.D. for no reason but that they were standing still; or walking; or sitting.
    The local Police have displayed all of the early signs of a Fascist Police State and nobody seems to care or be willing to challenge their behavior.
    as you say; this is happening all over America. AMERICA! And this under a Democratic administration.
    What would life be like if the POO (Party of Obstruction) gets their man Mitt in office?
    Because: Mitt is UN-FIT
    Not only is he unfit but he is so unfit that I suspect that he is just a figurehead for the Right-Wing Conspiracy to turn this nation into a slave state with a Fascist Government. I know; I know. We aren’t supposed to say that. People will call me paranoid, extreme, delluded. they’ll say I’m out of my mind. But then if I am right; that is what they would say.
    So screw the Police. These aren’t real Police anyway. Real Police are supposed to keep order and help people; defend citizens.
    These are just hired Thugs in the pay of the Republican Hierarchy; sent to destabalize our societty and rule through fear and intimidation. Beating anyone who objects to their brutality and brutalizing everyone they can to create an atmosphere of violence; hatred; and terror among the American people. They know the people are the greatest threat to their victory and conquest. Only the people have the power to stop them through the use of our shear number and physical presence.
    Think I’m paranoid? I may be but just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
    Cliche’ But so true.

    1. All this is happening under a democratic president and you’re blaming republicans? How about we hold the individuals themselves accountable instead of placing the blame on some whole organization or group of people?

      This is why I think party systems are hurting our politics. I’m a republican, yet I think John Pike’s actions and the habits of other police that you’re describing are UNACCEPTABLE.

  2. Been looking for the follow up to this story. Remember the promise for a full accounting within 30 days? I do believe the events occurred at university of Davis, a different school than Berkley. The law has been treading on civil rights now for over 10 years, and it continues to get worse. Thanks for the update.

  3. Great post on a troubling topic. This pepper spray incident was so over the top and was reminiscent of totalitarianism control. Using Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” I think there is a priming effect going on where police officers are sometimes “primed” to act a certain way. He used the terrible example of “41 Shots” where an innocent man was shot 41 times by police for living in “His American Skin” as Bruce Springsteen sang. Rodney King’s beating was excessive due to these officers being primed after a chase.

    Police officers have a tough job and I admire the role they play. Yet, we need constant training on how to use tact, diplomacy and restraint to quell a problem. In fairness to the po-po’s, the countless times they do their job well or correctly do not appear in the paper or on a You Tube video. So, we must understand there is a negative news bias. The questions I would look to are is there a trend in a department or city – aka New Orleans where the Dept of Justice has partnered with the new leadership to fix a major culture problem (this is a story that needs more reporting).

    1. The problem is that it a trend all over America. it’s not that we need to train cops in restraint; the problem is we need to stop training them to beat up peaceful citizens. This is NOT an isolated problem and it isn’t just a big city problem. In small towns all over America, people are being searched, forced to show I.D. without cause,beaten up for complaining about the treatment they receive, detained for no cause and intimidated into signing confessions for crimes they did not committ. Men and women are treatened and emotionally manipulated into turning in friends and aquaintences for a lessor sentence or release. Much of this is an attempt to enforce the restrictive drug prohibition forced on us by our government as an excuse to provide a steady income for organized criminals and keep our prisons full of free labor. Cops? Admire the role they play?
      No more than I admire the role that the Stazi played in East Germany, the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, or the Taliban “Police” on the streets of Kabul twelve years ago.
      Just what role should I admire? The role of the cop who shot a seventeen year old boy in the face with hios tazer for no reason? The role of the Cops who released George Zimmerman after he cold-bloodedly shot down Trayvon Martin? The role of the cop who kicked the 84 year old protestor in the head repeatedly in new York? How about the role of the Fascist Pig Cops who shot a man to death in front of his house for no reason. Shot him in the back of his leg and when he fell to his knees they shot him in the back of his head; walked over and handcuffed his lifeless corpse in front of his friends and family? What about the role of the cops who sexually abuse their female traffic stops as a matter of course? Should I admire them? How about the role of the cops who become drug trafficers and Pimps and enforcers for loan sharks and, and, and, and, and……. How long would you like me to go on because the material is endless. Brutality is what our cops are trained in and brutality is what they practice. Don’t ever let them tell you that they are just doing a job. They do the job because they enjoy it and it is a job nobody should be able to enjoy. the very fact that a man desires to become a cop should send up a big red flag that says “DISQUALIFIED”. Admire cops? I don’t think so. I don’t admire cops and I don’t admire anyone who trys to inflict their Right-Wing Fascist notions of order on me or any other American.

      Hey wait; what about those cops out in Maracopa County who harrass and detain people because they are Latino and “might” be here illegaly? Now I bet you are just gushing over with admiration for them huh? Cops. You must be kidding me. This isn’t Mayberry N.C. 1963 and there is no Sherriff Taylor waiting to make sure you get a fair shake and real justice. This isn’t Adam-12 or Car 54 where are you? This is a nation under threat of a takeover by the extreme right. A nation whose people are bleeding to death and unable to support their families. This is a nation whose wealth has been stripped and hoarded by the 1% of the people who have the ability to control it’s flow and who keep asking for more. A nation whose people are being driven into poverty and slavery by that 1% and a nation where the Police are the tools of that 1%. Who payed the NYPD to beat and kick and gas the OWS protestors? The 1%. Paid them to deny us our rights and physically abuse us in an attempt to scare us from our purpose. No I don’t think I’ll be wasting my admiration on cops.
      I’ll save my admiration for men with integrity, dignity, a kind heart, and a gentle way with the people.
      I’ll just keep admiring Martin Luther King, Barrack Obama, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Cornell West, and Robin Hood. You go ahead ass kissing the cops.

  4. Thank you on a wonderful blog post. This issue is near and dear to my heart, because where I live, if young people are not conservatively dressed (have piercings, or anything that could be construed as non-Mormon) they are subject to being “pulled over” while walking down the street and being searched and seriously messed with. My 22 year old son does not even like to leave the house!

    I don’t like guns, but I am forced to concede the need for them as an investment in case things continue to get worse, and armed action is forced upon us, to preserve our freedoms. I sound like a reactionary, which is funny, because I am a total pacifist. But, with the way things are going, who knows what the future might bring??

  5. FriscoPaul highlights malfeasance by Frisco Texas Police Department and malicious prosecution by Collin County Prosecutors. We now know that tampered evidence was used at trial, this has been confirmed by multiple experts.

  6. just my personal opinion but i think that cops who enforce brutality on innocent unarmed protesters or ANY other non threatening civilians should be fuckin beaten, tazed, maced and thrown in prison to be beaten some more by the inmates.

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