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  • RANDALL BENTON / Bee file, 2011

    Annette Spicuzza said it's time "to start the healing process."

  • Wayne Tilcock / Davis Enterprise

    Lt. John Pike of the UC Davis Police Department aims a stream of pepper spray at protesters Nov. 18 on the campus quad. Pike and other officers wore riot gear in defiance of their chief's order.

UC Davis police chief retires after pepper-spraying review

Published: Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 - 11:36 am

UC Davis Police Chief Annette M. Spicuzza on Wednesday became the first person to step down as a result of the November pepper-spraying incident on campus.

Spicuzza, who came under fire in last week's report on what caused the Nov. 18 incident, sent an email to The Bee saying her decision was made "after heartfelt discussions with my family."

"My 27 years in law enforcement have been dedicated to the ethical and committed service to the departments and communities I have been proud to be a part of," the statement read. "For the past seven years, I have accomplished many good things for both the Police Department and community here at UC Davis; and am grateful to those of you who have remembered this.

"As the university does not want this incident to be its defining moment, nor do I wish for it to be mine. I believe in order to start the healing process, this chapter of my life must be closed."

Spicuzza was suspended several days after the incident. Lt. John Pike, who sprayed students and protesters at a demonstration on the quad that day, also was suspended. Both have declined to speak publicly about the incident and were placed on paid leave while a confidential internal affairs investigation was conducted.

That probe is largely complete but there has been no word yet on what actions may stem from its findings.

University spokesman Barry Shiller said UC Davis was informed that Spicuzza would be retiring effective today and that the school expects to announce her successor shortly.

While Pike became the focus of worldwide attention after video footage showed him using pepper spray on a group of protesters that day, Spicuzza came in for criticism last week with the release of a task force report on the incident.

The report – which was highly critical of both the campus police and top administrators, including Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi – labeled police operations as "dysfunctional."

The task force said that officers simply ignored Spicuzza when she told them not to wear riot gear or carry batons into the demonstration.

The report also indicated that Spicuzza supported her officers' desire to remove the tents at 3 a.m., rather than at 3 p.m. to avoid a large crowd.

It also found that she did not strongly challenge Katehi when the chancellor said she wanted the tents removed by 3 p.m. that Friday.

Spicuzza's decision to retire may allow her to collect whatever pension benefits she has earned, one expert said.

Sacramento attorney William Portanova, who has represented numerous law enforcement officials accused of wrongdoing, said it is possible for an employer to try to revoke an officer's pension, but such moves are very rare and typically are only taken when an officer has been accused of a crime.

In the aftermath of the pepper-spray incident, Spicuzza defended her officers, saying they had been surrounded.

But Katehi suspended her on Nov. 21 after seeing footage of the pepper-spray incident.

"As I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus," she said in a statement at the time.

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