Lt John Pike is back in the news. He’s the pepper spraying copy from the Davis protest two years ago. Yesterday, it was announced that Pike will receive $38,056 for a workers compensation claim. There is understandably much outrage in the liberal world about this. But I don’t go along with it.
According to the Davis Enterprise, “John Pike, 40, of Roseville, reportedly suffered depression and anxiety brought on by death threats he and his family received after the Nov. 18, 2011, confrontation at an Occupy UC Davis encampment.” I don’t doubt it’s true. If his claim were with regard to being a very public joke, I wouldn’t sympathize. For one thing, any harm that came to him in that regard would be totally offset with stuff like this:
But death threats and personal attacks are wrong. I understand why people do that and I am not innocent of it myself. But I don’t think that Pike is a monster. I’m sure in his mind he was just doing a job. And watching the video, I don’t get the impression that he is taking pleasure in what he’s doing. In fact, it seems almost robotic.
I find myself increasing at odds with both conservatives and liberals on these kinds of issues. Everyone wants to personalize it. Was Pike a good cop or a bad cop? To me, it is very simple: John Pike was a cop. We have a real problem with policing in this country. But it isn’t about what any particular cop does, although clearly, sociopaths show up in any line of work. The system itself is corrupt.
It is clear why a lot of cops think that they are being picked on by management and the public at large. I think there is something wrong with dumping all over one cop for stuff that they all do. Still, there is a satisfying irony of selective enforcement that is used everywhere in law enforcement coming back to bite those very same officers. But clearly, they would see it differently.
The bottom line is that focusing on Pike—regardless of his culpability—misses the point. Pike is gone from Davis. But the police still behave the same, because as a culture we seem to be all right with the idea that the police should largely be above the law. Or at very least, we don’t care.
Here is a typical and very understandable liberal reaction from The Young Turks: