Back in November 2011, much of the United States watched in stunned disbelief as student protestors taking part in a peaceful demonstration at the University of California-Davis were hit directly in the face with a large cloud of pepper spray from a canister wielded by a campus police officer.
In the aftermath of the incident, the internal affairs division of the UC Davis Police Department conducted an investigation into the conduct of the officer, and determined that he acted reasonably and should therefore only be subjected to limited disciplinary measures. The police chief ultimately disagreed and fired him in July 2012.
Now, the officer is once again making headlines after he recently filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for work injuries that he claims to have suffered as a direct result of the pepper-spraying incident.
According to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation, the officer filed a claim for a psychiatric/nervous system injury, with a settlement conference scheduled for August 13. His court papers claim that he became the object of scorn both here and abroad after spraying the protestors, culminating in the unwanted receipt of 17,000 emails and 10,000 text messages, as well as various unwanted items ordered and delivered in his name.
It should be very interesting to see how this case develops. If the officer is awarded work comp benefits it will add to the UC system’s already large tab for expenses stemming from the November 2011 protest. The university previously settled a civil lawsuit filed by the students hit with the pepper spray, paying roughly $1 million in damages.
While this case is certainly interesting, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that when employees are injured they must be able to rely on the workers’ comp system to provide them with the benefits they need and deserve during difficult times.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, “UC Davis pepper spray cop files workers’ compensation claim,” Sam Stanton, July 30, 2013; The Los Angeles Times, “Ex-UC police officer who pepper-sprayed students seeks workers’ comp,” Larry Gordon, July 26, 2013