Pepper spraying people for $122,000 a year is a terribly stressful thing — at least, it is when people post videos of you “doing your job” all over YouTube. Stressful enough to win a $38,000 worker’s comp settlement after you get fired for exactly that.
The footage of former University of California officer John Pike casually pepper-spraying members of an Occupy demonstration as they huddled on the sidewalk has become one of the cultural memes of our times; maybe not quite up there with the Tienanmen Square footage, but not far off, either.
Following the incident, Pike was placed on eight months of administrative leave (suspension). during that time, investigators described his assault of the protesters “objectively unreasonable,” and Pike was kicked off the force. Apparently given ideas by the protesters’ successful $1 million lawsuit against the school, Pike himself decided to sue for worker’s compensation. He claimed permanent disability in the form of “depression and anxiety” relating to his internet celebrity status.
In its final finding, the State Department of Industrial Relations found that Pike had to deal with
“…continuing and significant internal and external stress with respect to resolving and solving the significant emotional upheavals that have occurred.”
Oh…there’s the pity.
This does seem pretty insane at first glance: awarding somebody $38,000 for getting fired in the course of assaulting groups of peaceful protesters with a military-style non-lethal weapon? Because he’s depressed and anxious, because HE was wrong? There are plenty of people who have been legitimately injured who’d love to see $38,000 from worker’s comp. But, let’s call this settlement what it is:
A Big. Fat. Middle. FINGER.
While a settlement of any sort seems outrageously unjust, make no mistake that this $38,000 (less than four months salary) was nothing but go-away money for someone who was claiming to be permanently disabled. For those of us who don’t make 120K, that would be about $8,000 to $10,000. By worker’s comp standards, that’s “just shut up” money. It’s also probably 5 percent of what he was looking for, and about $962,000 less than the protesters got.
So, while this officer deserved no better than a kick to the balls, we can at least be happy that he got quite a slap to the face.