Many people were outraged by the use of pepper spray against students at the University of California Davis who were sitting on the ground on campus in an act of civil disobedience. But apparently this behavior is simply standard operating procedure. In an article announcing that two UC Davis police officers were placed on administrative leave (leave with pay), a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant asserts the following:
Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a “compliance tool” that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.
“When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them,” Kelly said. “Bodies don’t have handles on them.”
After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.
“What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure,” Kelly said.
I see. The officer with the pepper spray was actually protecting the protesters by spraying them into compliance as opposed to having to lift them and possibly breaking a bone. This is a truly ridiculous statement, especially since after spraying the students the cops dragged some of them away, endangering the human bodies the barrage of chemicals was supposed to protect. Also, according to Mr. Kelly, curling into a ball is an action that can bring on baton strikes? No harm to human bodies there. Just ask Kayvan Sabeghi. What if a demonstrator has a seizure? What crowd control techniques will be brought to bear then? If this is standard operating procedure, then we must insist that police departments around the country revise those procedures.
Maybe the use of pepper spray is standard in that it has been dispensed in large quantities around the country against nonviolent protesters of all ages, creating a nice income stream for manufacturers of these chemicals. But there is nothing acceptable about this practice. If you think you absolutely must disperse peaceful demonstrators engaging in free speech activities, then find another way. Ask anyone who works in a hospital. There are ways of lifting people without resorting to chemical weapons.