By now you’ve probably seen footage of the UC Davis police officer, John Pike, spraying passive protesters with pepper spray. “Spray” is a generous word — more like hose. Anyhow the story and footage has since went viral. From CNN:
A campus police officer, in a sweeping motion, sprayed seated protesters at point blank range during a police attempt to clear out an Occupy encampment.
The school said 10 of the arrested protesters were given misdemeanor citations for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.
Eleven were treated for the effects of pepper spray, which burns the eyes and nose, causing coughing, gagging and shortness of breath.
15 years ago in a different life I was taught two versions of essentially the same use of force continuum — one for the prison system and one for National Guard riot training. Both looked like this:
- Officer Presence — No force is used. Considered the best way to resolve a situation.
- Verbalization — Force is not physical.
- Empty-Hand Control — Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation.
- Less-Lethal Methods — Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation.
- Lethal Force — Officers use lethal weapons to gain control of a situation. Should only be used if a suspect poses a serious threat to the officer or another individual.
For passive resistance like an inmate sit-down or the UC Davis incident, we were well within our rights to use soft techniques to get the offender to move. Two officers physically removing the offender would have been acceptable whereas hosing him with pepper spray would have not. Chemical agents were allowed only if there was threat of physical violence or to regain control.
This particular incident is bad for several reasons:
- It feeds into the stereotype that all law enforcement officers are jack-booted thugs (not true)
- It’s disappointing to see campus police in a state that has a long history of college protest, react in this manner.
- This event probably has become an iconic moment for the Occupy Wall Street movement. (depending on your politics could be good or could be bad)
Not only did Lieutenant Pike unwittingly help the OWS movement but he also has the dubious honor of becoming a meme: