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Pepper-spraying officer on video gets workers' compensation

Georgia readers may remember the University of California police officer who was filmed pepper-spraying a group of protesters in 2011 in a video that later went viral on the internet. He claimed that he had to stop working due to anxiety and depression after the video was released, and a judge recently agreed, awarding the man $38,059 in a workers' compensation case against the school. The officer reportedly suffered the emotional pain due to death threats against him and his family following the worldwide outrage over the officer's actions.

He was placed on paid leave after the incident and fired eight months later, despite the findings of an internal investigation that his actions were appropriate. The video showed the officer wearing full riot gear as he shot a continuous stream of tear gas into the faces of a line of seated protesters. The rally had been staged to support protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. The university had previously paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by demonstrators who were injured by the pepper spray.

An attorney supportive of the student protesters said that the workers' compensation settlement sent a message to future officers facing a group of passive and unarmed students. The message, he claimed, was that such officers could feel free to "brutalize" the students and "trample their rights" because the officers would be "well taken care of".

An employee with physical or emotional injuries incurred on the job may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. An attorney with experience in such matters may be able to determine whether the employee meets statutory eligibility requirements.

Source: The Guardian, "UC Davis pepper spray police officer awarded $38,000 compensation", Adam Gabbatt, October 23, 2013

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