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 | guardian.co.uk 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.