Former UC Davis Police Chief Talks About Pepper Spraying Incident

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Former UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza is speaking out for the first time about the infamous pepper spraying incident of students on campus during a protest nearly two years ago.

“I didn’t make that decision. I didn’t know it had occurred,” Spicuzza says.

She regrets that she and the police department were never given the opportunity to make things right.

“Whether that was an apology to the community, whether that was a training issue, whether it was just getting out there in front and explaining the situation so they would understand why the action was taken … that’s the part that will always haunt me,” Spicuzza says.

It was Lt. John Pike, seen on pictures and video from the incident that spread worldwide, who made that decision to break out the pepper spray.

24 hours later, he was placed on leave – and within 48 hours, so was the chief.

“And that was the end of it, and our lives pretty much came to a standstill,” Spicuzza says.

And now, a state appellate court has ruled that newspapers have the right to publish the names of all of the campus police officers involved in the incident.

“The last thing I want to see is that these unnamed officers have to go through what I went through, as well as the lieutenant,” Spicuzza says. “We dealt with death threats. I had to leave the state for a month because of the death threats and fear for my safety and my family.”

She just wants everyone to heal and move forward, as she has done. But it’s been a rough road.

“It wasn’t easy. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it was easy. It was horrible … I’ve lost my home. I’ve lost my name. I’ve lost insurance. It was terrible and if these people wanted me to suffer, they got their wishes; I suffered,” Spicuzza says.

Spicuzza never envisioned ending her 27-year career this way.

“It will not be my defining moment. I just won’t let it be.”

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  • nwgunner

    There was no need to explain what happened. The whole country saw it in the video. A group of people peacefully sitting on the ground were assaulted by a uniformed officer. That's what happened. My only question is why didn't the other officers present immediately place Lt. Pike under arrest?

  • Tucsonsun

    A number of years ago I worked directly under Annette Spicuzza. I found her to be very sharp, professional and she held very high standards and expectations for those who reported to her. I felt she had what it would take to make a good police chief. My experience in law enforcement taught me over and over that good people can make mistakes and despite our best intentions sometimes situations go terribly wrong. It's part of the human experience. I believe she has suffered immensely and wish her peace. From reading the published reports of the incident it sounds like there were those far above her that were never held to account for their part in the unfortunate situation at UC Davis. Which is not to say she didn't share responsibility for what happened.