Pepper spray “potentially deadly” force? Now we’re getting silly…

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by friendorfoe, Nov 22, 2011.

  1. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Okay, I’m aware of what happened at the UC Davis campus where peaceful protesters were sprayed by the police. Granted this was an exercise in poor judgment from that police department’s management but the lynch mob that is gathering around this topic is starting to borderline from the grounds of reasonable concern to hysterics. The video if you haven’t seen it, shows a number of riot geared police officers standing around a small contingent of seated, peaceful protesters who are not cooperating with the cops or obeying orders to disperse. There is a large crowd of gawkers (bystanders) filming the entire episode when one officer (presumably on orders) walks up and fires a fire extinguisher sized pepper spray canister directly into the faces of the protesters. All of them were arrested, two were hospitalized and the world goes crazy with cries of “police brutality”.

    Let’s look at the alternatives though.

    First, the best alternative would be to simply have 2 officers grab the students one by one and drag them to the paddy wagon. The assumption is that they would comply, but more than likely they’ll hang onto one another to form immovable dead weight. So then the officers are left with…

    Two, pain compliance techniques (pressure points) to break the grip of protesters on each other, sometimes this works and other times it does not, depending upon the suspect, the cop and any drugs or alcohol the suspect may have ingested. More often than not this does result in active resistance (flailing, kicking, swatting, etc.). But the force continuum goes higher still and the cops…

    Three use hard hand techniques (punching, etc.) to try and gain compliance. If you think pepper spray looks bad imagine a gaggle of cops punching and kicking a student into submission. Or…

    Four, the use of batons for assisted joint locks or worse, strikes. This would make punching look like kids play to the cameras.

    Five, they could taser the students but again, this is dramatic, traumatic and can be very dangerous. Besides we have seen countless recent examples of people being tased on TV and it never goes well for the cops.

    Or the cops could have simply sprayed them with peppers (which they did). Granted I did not see the cops try dragging the students away using joint locks or pain compliance techniques prior to this but then that would have (in my opinion) placed both the police and the students at greater risk of serious injury. Although it may not seem like it or look like it, pepper spray is mostly harmless outside of the intended effect of pain. It has a tendency to induce panic, snot strings, temporary blindness and yes it can be difficult to breathe (more due to panic than anything else) but it is not in of itself deadly. The cases where pepper spray has been fatal usually involves cases where the suspect was also hog tied and left laying on their chest, unsupervised for a prolonged period of time whereby they suffocated more due to immobility and body positioning not the spray.

    I speak from experience, I’ve been tear gassed and pepper sprayed more times than I’d like to count. It was part of my law enforcement training on several occasions and in the case of CS gas, it is part of military basic training. (Note: CS gas can be deadly with prolonged exposure, tear gas and pepper spray are NOT the same). Likewise I have witnessed and performed the spraying of dozens of law enforcement officers over my brief career. It always sucked, we always taped it and we always had a good laugh at the new officers getting sprayed as this portion of training is as much a rite of passage as it is training. (Note the purpose training is to keep officers from panicking if this happens in the field). Guess what? Nobody died, nobody needed hospitalization and by in large the effects were 95% worn off within 20 to 25 minutes.

    My favorite example of the media going off the deep end is this article:
    How dangerous is pepper spray? | World news |

    Where the author says that “worryingly” officers even sometimes carry pepper spray off duty? Sorry but WTF? Are you kidding me? Every officer I knew carried a GUN off duty, which is much more serious than pepper spray (as you know). Heck my wife has a canister of OC (pepper spray) on her keychain, and if needed I can pick up a can at the local quick stop on the way home and it still wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous as a $10, gas station pocket knife available at any truck stop (with no ID or background check required). But I guess our British friend would probably faint if he knew that bit of reality.

    Anyhow, rant over.
  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I agree -- the use of "worrying" just shows the bias of the commentator.

    That said, though, you're forgetting the best option for the police officers (and those who direct them) in that situation, which would have been simply to leave the protesters alone. Not only would that have been the nonviolent thing to do, but it would have undermined the protesters' attempts to get attention. I mean, they can't sit there forever, so just wait them out.
  3. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    That is way I would make a really bad cop. I would taser women and children first to make the point that I mean what I say and I will not hold back!

    Seriously, I can not say what I would do since I have never face a crowd that refused to do what I say when I have a position of authority (with the exception of everyday at work with people that report to me but I do not have a gun ;) ) but I know I would wonder if/how many crazys are in the crowd that would take the opportunity to "lash out" and I would be on guard. I find it difficult to judge when I have never walked in those shoes.
  4. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I'm not sure how much discretion the officers have in that regard, especially if the crowd had been ordered to disperse and the officers were ordered to remove them. You do not back down simply because they (the crowd) refuse to follow a lawful order. The occupy tent city for example would have become a long term problem if not dealt with...the police need to send a consistent message, they are not there to babysit but to enforce the law. That said there are probably smarter ways to do things but in my thinking the cops here did not act inappropriately.
  5. 03310151

    03310151 Active Member

    Pepper Spray? Awesome.

    Attached Files:

  6. 03310151

    03310151 Active Member

    This is fun.

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  7. 03310151

    03310151 Active Member

    Photoshop, next best invention after YouTube.

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  8. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    I had to be sprayed with pepper spray before I could carry it (along with just about every other cop in the country), and I've been hit by "friendly fire" more times than I care to remember. It's not a pleasant experience, but it's a far less use of force than using impact weapons when the protesters refuse to un-lock their arms when being arrested.

    The same as you use "Raid" on insect pests that won't leave, we use pepper spray on human pests that won't comply with lawful orders. It sucks for a few hours, but it leaves no lasting marks or injuries, and to call it "brutality" and especially "potentially deadly" is laughable.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 22, 2011
  9. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    I was appalled by what I saw of the UC Davis officer pepper spraying the protesters.

    I'm still appalled. I'll probably remain appalled. And +1 to Steve above on waiting them out.

    But I'm glad this forum exists where we can consider different perspectives, some of them, like Bruce's and Cajun's, intimately well-informed about police protocol and decision making.

    This piece also provides a lot to think about:
    Why I Feel Bad for the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike (Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic blog, November 18, 2011)

    Madrigal, citing Noakes and Gilham and McPhail et. al., describes three crowd control strategies for protests, in use over three periods of time.


    The "negotiated management" strategy, in ascendance from the 1970s, I guess post-Kent-State, to the 1990s when it was eclipsed in the wake of the WTO protests in Seattle, and then September 11, still comes across as the best, by far, of all imperfect choices.

    Police people, do you think we could reform the negotiated management model, even toughen it up, without letting the pendulum swing as far back towards low or selective tolerance of disruption, primacy of First Amendment rights, and communication with protesters, and high or selectively high use of force and arrests, as the "strategic incapacitation" model described as the standard today?

    ETA: Maybe a "tougher," post-September-11 and homeland-security-minded negotiated management strategy would adopt the extensive surveillance and cross-agency information sharing of "strategic incapacitation," while holding the line on the first five dimensions of negotiated management.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 22, 2011
  10. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    The officers likely received orders to remove the protestors right then and there, so the options were using impact weapons to force them to unlock their arms, which would result in very bad-looking photographs (which is what I suspect is exactly what they wanted) and possible injuries, or pepper spray them to make them go away.

    We have a large four-story municipal parking garage near several popular nightclubs, and after the bars close, it's like the Wild West, with huge fights not being uncommon. When faced with a massive brawl, I just hose down the mob with pepper spray, letting it settle down on them like a misty rain. Guess what? They stop fighting and leave.

    As I said, I've been pepper sprayed more times than I care to remember, and it's really not a big deal in the overall scheme of things. If that's the worst thing that happens to those snot-nosed protestors in their lives, they will have had very sheltered existences.
  11. ryoder

    ryoder New Member

    I'm glad we have brave police officers who are willing to do what is considered politically incorrect to keep our streets and schools safe and free for everyone.
  12. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    The vast majority of the time (from what I have seen on video, at least :yup:) the use of pepper spray and taser guns is entirely justified. If someone is egregiously breaking the law or resisting arrest or acting aggressively in the presence of a police officer then that person deserves to be sprayed or zapped. Obviously, there should be discretion. I see no reason why young children, older people or severely disabled people to be administered these potentially deadly tactics.

    Yes, I said it, potentially deadly. Not everyone is capable of taking a pepper shot to the face and surviving. On that note, plenty of people have been killed by electric shock weapons as well. With the pepper, the officer usually is entirely unaware if the person has asthma or is alergic to oc pepper, either of which can easily prove fatal. In any case, if the person is already excited then restricting that persons ability to breath can be a deadly combination. Oh yeah, and the person just might be innocent :icon16:

    It is a problem where, not always, but at times, certain officers seem inclined to shoot first and assess later. If you believe that the justice system is designed to protect the innocent, then our history favors the idea of doing so even at the expense of accidentally protecting the guilty as well. Look before you spray. Due force. That is all.
  13. perrymk

    perrymk Member

  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Oh, please. If those police were actually brave, they would have said, "Using force against nonviolent protestors who aren't endangering anyone is wrong and I refuse to follow orders to do so." But they aren't, and they haven't, at least not yet.

    Using force to stop a brawl I can understand. This? No way. The only thing being endangered here was the unspoken rule that all orders from a police offer must be immediately obeyed no matter what. Those people couldn't have sat there with their arms interlocked forever. No force needed -- just patience.
  15. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    No later than 34 seconds into this famous video of the UC Davis incident, officers seem to be pulling the locked-arm sitting-in protesters out of their positions by hand without weapons.


    The protesters seem to be resisting inasmuch as they're trying to stay where they are. But they don't at any point seem to be violent to the officers. No doubt the officers have some tactical advantage from the protesters just having been pepper sprayed. But they also have their superior standing position and range of movement, physical strength, ability to team up with two or more officers unlocking one protester at a time, and willingness to rough it up just that little bit more, to move the protesters, even if we work from the premise that they have to or should and can't just work around them.

    Couldn't they have moved in and done this with their arms without opening with that pepper-spray scene?

    It's possible that the police tried this and failed before the start of video, but this seems highly unlikely.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2011
  16. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    @Jonathan Whatley, I don’t mean to sound offensive so please take this with a grain of salt when I ask, have you ever been in a fight? A real, fist flying, kicking, eye gouging fight? Did you get bruised, get a black eye or maybe some broken bones? Did you tear any tendons or displace any joints that took months to heal if ever? I ask because these types of injuries are what would have occurred if the police in this situation had tried any other tactic in their use of force continuum with perhaps the one exception of just dragging them away (assuming the protesters would not “lock together”). If they lock up the cops are forced to use pain compliance in pressure points, joint locks or strikes. Imagine someone prying your shoulder the opposite direction of intended rotation with a 3 foot pole and you get the idea. Lasting injuries are not only possible, they are likely. Even though I feel bad for the 84 year old woman (who had been an activist since the 1960’s) and the priest, the fact of the matter remains they were conducting themselves in an unlawful manner and the police used the least amount of force possible to gain their compliance. Pepper spray is probably the most humane tool in the use of force continuum short of soft hands and police presence. The ONLY possible argument I have seen where this use of force might have been considered “appalling” is if the police peppered the crowd intending it to be “punishment” rather than simply gain their compliance. This is where officer intent and scope of authority come into play which is why I always encourage officers to be careful what they say when it comes to the “crime fighting” mentality of policing, especially around “punishing” offenders or similar language as this will throw a department in hot water in an instant should that rhetoric and images like from Davis appear together. But in this instance that was not the case. If you were appalled by these images you have lead a fairly sheltered life or otherwise do not fully understand the capabilities, proper use of and limitations of pepper spray.

    Of all people on this board Steve Foerster probably knows more about me and my law enforcement past than anyone and it may surprise you to know (and Steve can confirm) that I am vehemently opposed to excessive use of force cases (and there are hundreds of recent examples). I am always what is known as a “victim’s advocate” and I am very sensitive to when the police use their position of authority to “punish crime” rather than stay within the scope of their profession and simply enforce law, leaving punishment and guilt determinations to the courts and corrections systems (anything else in my opinion, is unconstitutional). I say all of that to say this, I am a progressive. I believe in the Goldstein model of Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) aka Problem Oriented Policing which takes a more holistic and collaborative approach in policing to include collaborating with the general community. The foundational belief is that crime is a “community” problem and not a “police” problem. Granted this is somewhat “pie in the sky” thinking in some neighborhoods where the public’s attitude toward police is mistrustful at best but I think with concerted, explicit efforts to gain trust and develop social ties COPPS or POP would be more effective than any model of policing to date. This would tie in more with the Negotiated Management model you listed above as identified by McPhail but moves away from procedural control and arrest statistics to relationship oriented and high levels of police discretion. In short, a more educated, professional police force working as much as “knowledge workers” with less emphasis upon the traditional model of blue collar crime fighting . This would of course be a paradigm shift within policing where arrest rates and conviction rates would no longer be the metrics of an officer’s effectiveness but instead would rely on the attitudes of the community in general to rate the officer’s effectiveness. This would also grant unquestioned tactical control and decision making to the officers on the scene rather than a centralized command, resulting in highly decentralized management (something unthinkable to many policing agencies). So I guess my answer to your Negotiated Management strategy is that it is in line with the COPPS or POP style of law enforcement (IMHO) and should be used to the full extent possible. The problem here is that these officers carrying out the use of force were likely not the decision makers in this instance but likely following orders given to them by a higher authority (centralized control).

    @Maniac, if young children were involved in these protests and getting mixed up between unruly crowds and a police riot squad the logical question is “where the hell were their parents” which should then be followed by “should CPS get involved”? My take is if these kids were subjected to pepper spray because their parents exposed them to this type of environment they may not be fit parents. No matter how strong my belief is in a cause or the consequences for my actions to further that cause, as a parent my first priority is and should always be the safety and well being of my children. If I am out in a demonstration with my kid and things begin to look unsettled, I leave with my kids. Elderly people are adults (obviously) and capable of making adult decisions and living with the consequences. If I had an elderly protester becoming unruly pepper spray is one of the least injurious tactics available to me. Oh and by the way, they are all “innocent” until proven guilty…right?

    Regarding the realities of pepper spray…

    Take a look at this report:

    You will note some trends:
    1.) Pepper spray reduces the likely injury of suspects who become unruly with police.
    2.) Pepper spray also reduces likely suspect fatality in a use of force incident (in short it saves lives).
    3.) Use of force complaints have been reduced since pepper spray being deployed.
    4.) In 63 in custody deaths (within the scope of this study), pepper spray combined with asthma was responsible for exactly 2 deaths in 1994.

    In short pepper spray or OC is a slam dunk for humane, non-injurious, non-deadly force. Of the millions of instances of use you have a better chance of being struck dead crossing the street than you do of dying of pepper spray alone.

    By the way it may surprise you to know that common police procedure is to ask the suspect if they require medical assistance (or otherwise get it) after spraying them with OC and the suspect has been properly restrained. It may also surprise you to know that by the time EMTs arrive the incapacitating or peak effects are usually starting to wear off (they are temporary as in minutes…not hours).

    @Jonathan again. In this video the cops drag the protesters after applying pain compliance techniques; this is common and no indicator that the protesters would have complied otherwise. I did see an earlier snippet of video where one of the cops tried to drag one loose by a leg and the person held onto the crowd (resisting). In the world of policing that is enough for pepper spray.
  17. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    Lest see ... trespass on someone else's property, refuse to leave, to knowingly provoke a confrontation with police, refuse to leave again knowing the police will take action to disperse the crowd, makes the crowd peaceful??? The "crowd" screams about the rule of law, yet they are the biggest violators of the rule of law & cry about oppression when the rules are applied to - on - them. Whatever. They deserve everything they get because they make no attempt to police themselves. At least the "Tea Party" holds their rally - after getting the proper permits & authorizations - and leave after the alloted time period - no refusals, no provoking confrontation, no trespassing. I see NO similarities with the two groups - so don't even try to convince me I'm wrong. Just using the "occupy" shows a lack of respect for the law and other people.
  18. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    No offense taken, fair question, and no.

    When it comes to fighting or physical confrontation, you're right.

    And, Cajun, thank you for sharing all this information.
  19. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Thanks for being a sport Jonathan...and not taking offense.
  20. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

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