Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

At UC Davis there’s plenty of blame to go around

Post by Brian O'Neill on Nov. 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm with 63 Comments »
November 22, 2011 10:13 am
UC Davis campus police use pepper spray on protesters/ AP photo

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But a thousand words would be woefully insufficient to contain the outrage against the campus cops depicted here in the now infamous UC Davis pepper spraying incident.

Last Friday afternoon UC Davis students staged a protest an Occupy Wall Street protest, specifically targeting the sharp increase in tuition. During their sit-in police in riot gear responded to their protests. In response, the students linked arms and refused to move. One of the officers in the viral Youtube video (585,727 views and growing) produced a riot-sized canister of pepper spray and went down the line of protesters, giving each a blast in turn.

From a public relations standpoint this incident was an absolute train wreck. With earnest students in full kumbaya mode on one side, and a nonchalant cop wielding a pepper spray canister like a drunken cook hosing down a flaming BBQ this incident was destined to become an Internet sensation.

Obviously, much of the blame can and will fall on the unprofessional demeanor of the police officers while administering a painful but necessary use of force. And yes, you heard right. Necessary use of force.

The news media was quick to portray this student protest as a peaceful group: no rock-throwing, pushing or shoving. But here is where the story line fails.

At some point a decision was made to break up the protests and move people along. This decision, which set in motion the unfortunate events, was the tipping point in what could otherwise have been a simple and legitimate protest worthy of a short byline in the local news. Whoever made this decision must answer for the outcome. But let’s skip ahead to the police on scene.

Clearing protesters is a process that begins with verbal commands. It appeared police gave the warning to leave; it also was apparent that the protesters ignored this warning. Instead, they linked arms to further hinder the police.

In case you just missed it, these two related reactions changed the entire situation.

Once cops were given orders to clear the walkway they would then have authority to enforce criminal statutes (such as Trespassing, Disorderly Conduct, Failure to Obey a Police Officer, and Obstruction of Justice) on any protester who failed to follow directives. By linking their arms to hinder the lawful arrest, the protesters quickly bypassed compliant (following verbal commands) and passive resistance (the “wet noodle” response), and became actively resistant to arrest.

Thus linked together, the protesters gave the cops little choice. If it had been one or two individuals, a simple arm bar would have sufficed to get the subject safely into custody. But when the number of offenders rose well beyond the number of officers, grabbing people individually would have been an unsafe, exhausting and foolish choice.

Pepper spray is an effective tool. Despite the painful stinging to the mucus lining of the nose and throat (an awful sensation I have experienced on several occasions), it is on the lower end of the force options available to police officers. Why is this, given the burning, nauseous reaction to the capsicum pepper? The reason is simple: it’s not about avoiding pain, it’s about avoiding injury.

Pepper spray rarely injures people, a fact that cannot be said of many other force options. Forceful takedowns, trips, and night stick applications each have an increasing risk of injury to the subject.  In short, using pepper spray on an actively resisting subject(s) is a tactical police response well within the guidelines of any police agency.

But in the UC Davis incident two additional factors were missing. The first is the unaccountable reason for ordering the dispersal of student protesters during daylight hours. Few bastions of society regard free thought and speech as highly as our college campuses, and the tone and nature of this protest (at least in hindsight) did not appear to require immediate removal. Whoever made that decision, whether the police chief or a university official, needs to give a full accounting for it.

The second is the failure of the campus police to demonstrate their desire to peaceably mitigate the occupation. Their seeming cavalier attitude played right into the hands (and video lens) of anyone with an ax to grind against “storm trooper cops.” Whether or not their actions were justifiable, the manner in which they carried out their duties made it apparent that they considered the students beneath their contempt.

Exercising the indelibly American rite known as civil disobedience can be a chaotic and messy. This latest exercise at UC Davis, however, was just ugly. In the end, the cops, the university officials and the protesters should all share the blame.

Everyone blew it.

Leave a comment Comments → 63
  1. Brian, I must say I’m a little surprised by your comment ” And yes, you heard right. Necessary use of force.”
    Against peaceful protesters!! Maybe that is the problem, cops feel a need to do exactly what they are told as quickly as possible irregardless of what is right. The UC Davis students were on public property, correct? So now you mention words like trespass, failure to obey a police officer,obstruction of justice. Sadly, I’m sure you believe what you have said. These young protesters deserve praise for their peacefulness, the cops scorn. The protesters were told to leave because they were an embarrassment, nothing else. IMO no laws were broken until the cops arrived on scene.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    I am wondering if you read the entire column, ipsut. There can be no enforcement action, reasonable or excessive, without a law violation. What the violation was in this case, would be up to the particular statutes in California, as well as any specific to the university. If the police officers at UC Davis took enforcement action based on “embarassment” rather than a violation of a statute, then you would already have seen the Feds arriving with writs of civil rights violations. You can not seize someone (or in this case, pepper spray and arrest someone) without a violation of a crime.

    The issue is not with the crime involved (which, as I mentioned, I’m pretty sure existed), but with the decision to enforce it. In my view a better discretionary measure would be to let the college students have their sit-in. In our current unsettled climate, that particular protest did seem very peaceful, and in the end who cares if they want to take a seat for a few hours of an evening. However, once that ridiculous decision was made to enforce whatever statute was being violated, the protesters’ actions were easily identifiable as actively resistant. The manner in which the use of force was conducted was the most asinine display many of us in my profession have seen in some time.

    As I said, there were mistakes all around.

  3. This is slightly derailing and off topic (of which I agree with), but I do have to take exception to your assertion that “Few bastions of society regard free thought and speech as highly as our college campuses”. Nothing can be further from the truth. The only free speech accepted at college campuses is the speech that offends no one, that provokes no debate, or disagrees with their world view. They are bastions of the politically correct, not free speech.

  4. This column is much more humane and balanced than the TNT’s Sunday editorial on the same general subject. That said, the use of pepper spray seemed unnecessary based on the fact that the protesters were not about to do anyone any harm and would have probably left later in the day of their own accord.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    In the sixties, MLK and other protesters expected to pay for their transgressions. Now, the spoiled kids expect a pass. Truth be told, they expect and relish the reaction by police…it’s gives them more clout with the brain-dead PC public.

  6. smokey984 says:

    Again as ive said in your previous writings, Spoon fed law enforcement following blindly the orders of the incompetent…

    These are the types of incidents that lead to civil unrest. Humanity at its worst when that dinosaur walked up and started spraying…

    Law enforcement needs to pick a side. I know the reasonable Police officers already have. And again theres a huge difference from a police offier and law enforcement. Law enforcement is on the wrong side of this one.

    Just let the students sit and make dumbasses of themselves…who cares, nobody is getting hurt from sitting down.

  7. Brian, you said mistakes were made all around, which were made by the protesters. Not obeying a ridiculous order from the cops? Yes of course I’ve read your entire article, which is why I’ve decided to comment.
    I also have read the entire article you had previously written about Police playing or fighting to win. The UC Davis episode is proof you were correct. I do agree that the smart thing to have done would have been to let the UC Davis students have their very peaceful protest. That likely could have been done with just one police officer, and little publicity. BTW, IMO if the powers to be are displeased, they can find a violation in just about any activity.

  8. smokey984 says:

    One simply cannot ignore the progressively deteriorating economic and political conditions in just about every industrialized nation (as well as ‘periphery’ countries like Syria and Egypt). The people are getting frustrated at the inability of political leaders to put forth any meaningful solutions. Moreover, they are dismayed at the utter lack of empathy from politicians who claim to be just like the rest of us, but regularly use their positions of power to amass more wealth and influence for themselves and their well connected friends at the expense of the electorate.

    As Sovereign Man Simon Black points out in The Government Is Getting Prepared, What About You?, the last week provides some insight into the emotional and psychological state of the globe’s populace as evidenced by the First Lady of the United States being booed at a major sporting event, and a similar occurrence in Russia with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, not to mention the continued protests in the U.S., Europe, the middle east and elsewhere.

    It really doesn’t matter where in the world you are. The people have had enough. And, the majority of them are holding on to the (false) hope that the next election will somehow change things. Just as Scott Brown’s election to the Senate in 2010 at the height of the Tea Party movement failed to change or improve anything because it turns out that the knight in shining armor was just another political prostitute, so too will the next election fail to fundamentally alter the direction we’re headed (unless something amazing happens like the election of a true third party thinker).

    People may be holding out hope that things will get better. When the elections of 2012 come and go, and nothing has improved, what we’re seeing play out on the streets of America today is going to intensify. If you think police response is brutal now, wait until the Molotov cocktails start flying.

  9. Brian O'Neill says:

    Smokey- Thanks for the comment, though it does sound like you’re simply venting. Most readers and columnists seem to be in agreement on this one, in that the decision to break up the protest was unnecessarily provocative and ultimately a huge blunder. The cops in the video were not the shining examples of professionalism we would have liked to see, either.

    But I do take exception to the idea that cops need to pick a side. We all swore an oath to defend the law of the land, which includes local and state laws as well as the Constitution. When a we receive a lawful directive to make legitimate arrests, the public should expect we will execute our enforcement duties without picking sides. That includes arm-linking protesters (though hopefully without the barrel o’ pepper). To do otherwise would lead to the corrupt police state that forced Egyptians to expel Mubarak last February.

    No thanks.

  10. smokey984 says:

    of course, in my first post i was venting. And the point i am trying to make is eventually in the coming years, as this thing continues south, Human beings (First responders included) will come to the unfortunate truth that for all these years they have been swindled. And Police Chiefs around this great country will have a choice to make. To follow, blindly, the unlawful orders of our incompetent politicians or …

    I understand the rule of law. Am my intent is not to put our First Responders on trial here. However taking an oath doesnt mean a blind faith.

    First responders have an uncompromising code of integrity, take full responsibility for their actions, and keep their word. Remember that loyalty must be demonstrated to seniors, peers and subordinates alike, and know that is must never be blind. You must have the moral courage to question the appropriate direction in which an organization is headed and then the strength to support whatever final decisions are made.

  11. surething says:

    No reason EVER to spray sitting people. Haul them off to jail…no need for that.

  12. smokey984 says:

    The unanticipated consequences of not participating in politics leaves you being governed by your inferiors…

  13. Brian O'Neill says:

    surething- Thanks for your comments. To clarify, when someone is actively resisting (i.e. linking arms in a sitting position and refusing verbal commands), hauling someone off the ground is actually a step UP the force scale from pepper spray. This idea is based on years of studies on similar incidents, and the injuries to police and protesters alike. However, in this case (if you’ll forgive the Monday morning QB) the pepper spray did seem like overkill.

  14. rivitman says:

    Brian, there isn’t any way for you to justify this. There is no justification for you attitude toward using a chemical weapon against no threat whatsoever.

    Using such items as “Pepper Spray”, tasers, rubber bullets, buckshot, beanbag rounds and wood block rounds and now LRAD’s, against non-violent (vs. non-compliant humans)IMO, constitutes assault.

    Call it what it is. A chemical weapon. It’s not benign. If I used it on YOU, your next move would be to shoot me with your service pistol correct? (and you would be right in doing so).

    There was no rioting, no property damage, no violence taking place. An model protest. sSo what was the object here? The petty tyrants (aka local officials) decided to send in the troops, and the troops happily obliged, with a complete disregard for their actual duty and purpose for existing.

    Inflicting pain on someone as a matter of convenience shows basic disregard for humanity.

  15. Chippert says:

    I have to agree with what someone else stated. In this day of laws, laws and more laws I can almost guarantee that virtually everything anyone does breaks a law or two (or more). It is a sad situation that we as a society find ourselves in that the powers that be have fenced us in with our own laws and now have a ready force in the police who can use them against us. “Protect and Serve” has come to mean, in so many cases, protect and serve the powers that be, not the citizens and people of this country. “I was just doing my job” is a cry that we have heard through history, whether it be from the Auschwitz guard who pulled the lever to drop the cyanide into the bucket of water, the solider who massacred a village at My Lai, or the cop who pepper sprays a group of non-violent protestors sitting on the grass, hurting no one (even though technically they were breaking a law or two). Some day the citizens of this great country may awake to what is going on.

  16. WTraveler says:

    After reading this discussion I have to partially agree with Brian and that is only that the police were not justified in using pepper spray against defenseless student protestors.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Smokey that with the deterioration of our political system, while rewarding politicians on the shoulders of the people they serve, people first try to work within the system. When the system fails them they begin a peaceful protest. If that fails the frustration increases and violent protests take over.

    We saw it happen with Civil unrest in the sixties and Vietnam protests in the 50s/60s/70s. In the beginning people tried peaceful protests, but the politicians did nothing to protect the people they served. Do you honestly think Congress got up one morning and decided the Nation needed “The Great Society?” No, Martin Luther King and others bought that with blood, sweat and tears. Do you think Richard Millhouse Nixon woke up one morning and decided Vietnam was a waste of our nations resources and young lives? No that withdrawal was bought with the hard work of Vietnam protestors and even lives of students at Kent State.

    Our politicians should see these wall street protestors as a wake up call. The nation is getting frustrated and the peaceful protestors will become violent and then changes will be forced to be made.

  17. Brian O'Neill says:

    rivitman- Won’t bother to respond to that because it’s such a distortion of events and intentions.

  18. Pacman33 says:

    “Some day the citizens of this great country may awake to what is going on.”

    “What is going on”?…. Besides, A disorganized unruly mob of shiftless protesters consisting of Hippies, Socialists, Junkies, Ex-convicts, Gypsies, Communists and Rapists that has been reinforced by union labor thugs. They have no coherent ideas, only grievances and a thirst for public chaos.

    For the Occutard’s disability in the articulation of their economic positions and lack of direction, The movement has shifted to now protesting their right… to protest. The #OWS is demanding their 1st amendment rights be recognized despite having nothing of value to say.

    The #OWS’s band of cowardly, leftist misfits have hidden behind the skirts of‘fairness’ ‘equality’ ‘oneness’ and ‘victims wanting justness’. They’re actions have only the purpose of causing chaos and the unremitting instigation of crowd control officers, attempting to incite a police reaction to manipulate in the media to gain public sympathy and attention toward their end goal they don’t have.

  19. Chippert says:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

  20. smokey984 says:

    And to continue Brian, you said: We all swore an oath to defend the law of the land, which includes local and state laws as well as the Constitution.

    So which takes precedence? The constitution, local, city or state laws?

    Its a great questions we all should ponder. And if the answer was the Constitution then in this case i would argue the Law Enforcement agency broke their oath, to wit:

    The 1st amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  21. I have to disagree that it was a mistake for the protesters to nonviolently remain. If all it takes for a protest to become illegitimate is an official decision that the protest must be disbanded, the right to assemble peaceably in protest becomes meaningless.

  22. Pacman33 says:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

    “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm— but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

    — T. S. Eliot

  23. rivitman says:

    OK Brian, your evasiveness makes my point better than any response.

    You somehow, using some twisted sort of logic, claim the actions of the cops in question were necessary.

    No, they were not. Not unless you believe that all protests of any kind should take place in the middle of a desert wasteland, a hundred miles from the nearest road. If that’s what cops believe, it’s time to hang my flag upside down.

    Peaceful protestors should know that even the most benign of gatherings carry risk as they upset the balance of power, always heavily weighted against them.

    But the police, have failed to grasp that in the modern age, eyes are always on them.

    You can’t B.S. me Brian, I have a retired P.O. as a brother. I admire the police. I respect the police. I deplore them when they commit acts of violence against passive citizens under the color of law, simply because they refuse to “obey”.

    If a cop has hands laid on him, if property damage or violence, or riot is in evidence, by all means, pepper spray away. Yo are dealing with crime then, not the exercise of a right.

    It’s to bad some people find protests of this nature inconvenient or disruptive to their normal activities. But that is what freedom looks like.

    The downplaying of the effect of O.C. sprays in non-defensive applications is also evidence of a siege mentality that really has no place in dealing with peaceful demonstrations. Your attitude towards the use of the chemical irritants is far too non-nonchalant. It’s not just another tool in your kit bag. If that’s what is is too you, then it should be taken away from you. It’s a weapon, a weapon of another sort, one that requires good judgment an proper circumstance. The Davis cops showed extraordinarily bad judgement, and manifest laziness.

  24. So, Brian, in the old days you would have shot these passive protesters with real bullets instead of pepper spray? Almost all police departments have rules on the use of non-lethal force that mirror then old rules on lethal force before pepper spray was invented. The recommended

    The officers need to be in some kind of danger from harm to be able to use these weapons or undable to subdue a suspect. For example, California law says that the use of pepper spray is appropriate for law enforcement as a “‘reasonable’ force to defend themselves, to defend others, to prevent escape of a suspect and to overcome active resistance.”

    The US DOJ says all officers must comply with the same rules when using less than lethal force as when using lethal force: “Law enforcement officers and correctional officers of the Department of Justice may use force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

    San Francisco says it is: “a defensive weapon intended for use when attempting to subdue an unarmed attacker or to overcome resistance likely to result in injury to either the suspect or the officer.”

    Washington State prisons use of force policy allows pepper spray only “for self defense” or “defense of another”.

    Even the pro-police inventor of pepper spray said it was only intended for situations where in the past lethal force would have been used.

    I do not know what the use of force policy is for Tacoma police, but I will try to find out. If it says it can be used for crowd control or to bend the will of passive protesters when there is no threat to the officer or to others, I will vigorously try to get it changed.

  25. Earth_watch says:

    The UC Davis chancellor is stating that the police “defied” her orders regarding use of pepper-spray. The police chose to do that on their own. She said, regarding relocating protesters on campus, “…to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it.”

    Yet the police went ahead and attacked peaceful, non-threatening students with pepper-spray (directly to the face within close range) who were neither an overwhelming number, nor aggressive.

    Simply failing to disperse does NOT allow for an immediate physical assault.


  26. Objective says:

    Brian you stated above-“But I do take exception to the idea that cops need to pick a side. We all swore an oath to defend the law of the land, which includes local and state laws as well as the Constitution. When a we receive a lawful directive to make legitimate arrests, the public should expect we will execute our enforcement duties without picking sides. That includes arm-linking protesters (though hopefully without the barrel o’ pepper). To do otherwise would lead to the corrupt police state that forced Egyptians to expel Mubarak last February.

    No thanks.”

    Here we go, we don’t know if any or what laws were supposedly broken. Police come in and spray the crowd down with pepper spray. Heck they might as well have tazered all of them also. Who are the ones making the so-called lawful directives? How would somebody as yourself know it is lawful or would you just do whatever you are told to do?

    Law of the Land, state, local laws and the constitution? Heck, if I was to spray somebody in self-defense to protect myself and family. I would probably be thrown in jail, sued for outrageous amounts of money and so on. Would you consider that, the “Law of the Land”? If a police officer tells me to jump off a cliff, and I refuse. I could be charged with “Failing to Obey a Police Officer”. Which is also under local and state laws and the constitution right?

    Our legal system is not much more than a three ring circus. Needless to say, the time writing this comment along with the article was a waste of time. We don’t know if any laws on the protesters or police side were broken.

    And here we are on Thanksgiving day commenting on this kind of stuff.

  27. Brian O'Neill says:

    Clearly this concept bothers you, Objective. I don’t think I will be able to remove your deep and abiding mistrust for authority–not sure I want to, really–but let me again make my case.

    In large-scale tactical situations, such as a protest, there will be a command authority pre-established. That incident commander (or in some cases, mayor, chancellor or highest civilian authority) is going to ultimately be responsible for the decision-making. In this case, the decision was to shut down the protest and arrest anyone who resists the order. Whether it’s UC Davis or the streets of NYC, there are always laws covering such incidents. The police, more than any other entity of which I am aware, are cognizant of the civil liability involved in usurping people’s freedoms unlawfully. People lose their jobs and their homes for such lapses in judgment.

    I seriously doubt that will happen here. Why? Because there was obviously some statute that the police chose to enforce in order to clear the area. Was it the right thing to do at the time? My opinion, from the standpoint of limited knowledge and hindsight, is no. Let them protest.

  28. Brian O'Neill says:

    Earthwatch- your comments are based on two assumptions. The first is that the chancellor (i.e. politician) is telling the unvarnished truth. For myself, I am skeptical based on past experiences in such situations. Second, you assume that a politician has the right to tell police officers how to do their jobs. They do not. A civilian authority can direct police to do an action but the manner in which it is carried out is based on our training and policies (would a hospital administrator give a surgeon approval for an operation and then tell them how to do it?).

    There were not too many students (your words) and they students were not aggressive (again your words). So the chancellor’s conditions WERE met. Pepper spray is meant to be used directly to the face, and when used in order to make an arrest (which was the case here) it is not deemed an assault by the courts. It would be considered a Use of Force.

    While I thank you for your insight on this matter, your comments cement the idea that the chancellor was the one who directed the actions. I’m not happy with the police performance, but for me the buck stops at the top.

  29. Brian O'Neill says:

    Tuddo- As I mentioned in my column, the act of refusing lawful orders to disperse and linking arms is a clear example of active resistance. Under the terms of CA (which you mentioned above), this allows for the usage of pepper spray. Sounds pretty simple to me.

  30. Brian, we certainly have a difference of opinion about defensive weapons as opposed to offensive strikes, and “passive” versus “active”. has a succinct history and definiton of passive resistance nthat I think comports with what the average person thinks is passive resistance, whether or not it is the police view or not.

    …”passive resistance can be thought of as an active, but nonviolent, mode of struggle in a social conflict. The actions that fall under the term passive resistance include many forms of civil disobedience and noncooperation—such as sit-ins, boycotts, blockades and occupations of buildings, tax refusal, and alternative publications and media. More active forms of passive resistance include strikes, walkouts, protest marches, theatrical protests, and hunger strikes.”

    You just totally changed the definition of “active resistance” to one which suits your purpose without any regard to the true meaning of the word.

    I guess you answered my other question, and you would have shot these people with lethal bullets in the days before pepper spray, because of their active resistance and danger to the police. The policy on force did not change, but the weapons did. Just because pepper spray is not lethal, it is still a use of force.

    I am saddened by your response, because it shows how much a smart, thoughtful person can change when they put on a police uniform and justify using force in situations that clearly do not call for it.

    I guess we’ll have to determine whether or not we want to live in a police state or not.

  31. Gotta agree with you on this one Brian. I am as anti bad cop as they come. I quit reading your columns for quite some time, as I consider you to just be a cop apologist and part of the problem, not the solution. BUT, in this case, you make a very convincing arguement. Pepper spray is as non-violent as you can get. Does it burn? Sure. But how rowdy was it going to get, and how many sprained arms, etc were going to happen if the police had used physical force? Should they have used their nightsticks? No! Should they have put themselves in an out-numbered hand to hand combat situation? No!

    They used the most non-lethal means possible. If people want to have a discussion of whether the protestors should have been allowed to illegaly stay there, that’s a discussion to be had.

    Congrats to these officers for handling the situation in the most non-lethal, non-injurious manner possible given the situation.

  32. rivitman says:

    A protest is not A ” Large scale Tactical situation”.

    Deeming it such is paranoid, silly, and overwrought.

  33. Objective says:

    “I seriously doubt that will happen here. Why? Because there was obviously some statute that the police chose to enforce in order to clear the area. Was it the right thing to do at the time? My opinion, from the standpoint of limited knowledge and hindsight, is no. Let them protest.”

    Thanks Brian, this confirms my concerns when it comes to laws/statutes. Police CHOSE to enoforce this statute (If there was one to be enforced)to clear the area. Amazing which ones are chosen to be enforced and not to be enforced. We do agree that with limited information it was not appropriate to spray them down and allowing them to protest. Now if the table was to be turned and the crowd sprayed the police down, who would be going to jail?

    Pepper spray sure does clear up the sinuses!!!

  34. Brian O'Neill says:

    Not sure why you choose to miss key statements, but the chancellor (at least in the UC Davis case) is the one who decided to move the crowd along. If she did not understand the protocol by which cops do their jobs, then perhaps she should have asked..or her chief should have told her.

  35. mjcrites says:

    “Thus linked together, the protesters gave the cops little choice.”

    In this instance the police were violating their own polices and procedures. Go ahead and look it up, they’re online and if you can’t find them you shouldn’t be writing for a newspaper.

    The students had committed the horrible treason of sitting down in a public place. They weren’t harming anyone or any thing. They weren’t preventing anyone from getting where they needed to go. Had the police walked away the students would have sang a few songs, chanted a few chants, and then their butts would have gotten sore and the would have gotten up and left.

  36. mjcrites says:

    Brian, maybe you missed this?

    DAVIS, Calif.—The chief of the UC Davis Police Department was placed on administrative leave Monday following allegations that police officers used excessive force to disperse protesting students.

    On Friday, UC Davis police officers were ordered to clear protesting students and their encampment from the school’s quad. A video of the police action, which has gone viral on the Internet, shows a UC Davis police officer using pepper spray against a group of seemingly non-violent students huddled on the ground. Two students were sent to the hospital to be treated for pepper spray, and 10 were arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and failure to disperse, according to The Los Angeles Times.

    After reviewing the video, UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi on Monday placed Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave pending a review of the incident and the allegations of excessive force. The two officers involved were also placed on leave over the weekend. Not appeased, protesters are now calling for Katehi’s resignation, which she has refused to offer, according to the newspaper.

    In a prepared statement, Katehi said placing the police chief on leave was “a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus.” In an interview on KQED, a local radio station, Katehi said the video was “horrific” and that UC Davis police officers “were not supposed to use force, it was never called for.” Likewise, University of California President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement that he was “appalled” by the images.

  37. mjcrites says:

    Well crud, it looks like you can’t go back and delete comments that you’ve made. Please ignore my previous two.

    I’ll say this instead. I’ve worked (volunteered really) with a few community justice and diversion programs over the years and spent a year working with a “campus court” on a Washington State college campus. I’m not sure how the system works in CA, but had this happened in WA the students who were pepper sprayed would wind up in a “campus court” sooner or later. Based on my experiences working with these programs and from viewing several different videos of the incident I’m 100% confident that none of the students would be found guilty of anything.

  38. Earth_watch says:

    Mjcrites, why would you want to discard your previous two comments?

  39. Brian O'Neill says:

    mjcrites- Thanks for taking the time to look into this issue. I read all three of your comments and see a perspective shared by many readers, students or not. However, I would refer you to some previous comments I made in regards to the chancellor. She was responsible for ordering the students removed. That was her choice. She does not get to micromanage how the police conduct their business because she does not have the training or authority. What she can do, as a good Monday-morning politician, is push the blame onto the police chief.

    It is actually quite easy to find legal grounds to expel students, protesters or anyone from a public place, especially when that group has failed to acquire a permit. I really think people need to move on from the idea that “the police had no right to move the students.” In fact, the chancellor directed them to do so and the legal authority was present. The use of force, pepper spray, is an accepted tool for actively resisting subjects (sitting down, failing to respond to commands, linking arms).

    So the question remains, if it was so legitimate, why did it look so bad? That’s because when you’re dealing with human beings, you can’t use pie charts and spread sheets to make all your decisions. At some point you need to use a certain amount of discretion, reason, judgment or whatever you call it, so that you don’t end up looking like a thug who relishes a good pepper spray shower.

  40. Earth_watch says:

    Hi Brian – I sincerely appreciate your constraint in this piece, compared to some previous submissions (I really do) but I take issue with the following inconsistencies.

    In an above comment you say, “…the chancellor was the one who directed the actions…” as if she were ultimately to blame although you’d just previously said: “A civilian authority can direct police to do an action but the manner in which it is carried out is based on our training and policies…” And, as you’d also previously said (in OWS – Throwing Rocks and Losing Relevance) “…a city official, typically the mayor, will determine that an enforcement action needs to take place…” however, you then said “…if the chief decides that the enforcement action is a poor decision, legally unenforceable or tactically unsound, the chief can refuse to take action.”

    So, if the police can choose their own methods of approach to orders (and even over-ride orders) why are you saying that the buck stops with the chancellor for this situation? In another previous piece’s comments (Fighting Fair vs. Fighting to Win) you had indicated police should use physical force only if police were (or were about to be) assaulted, themselves… which was not the case in this situation.

    Even if the law allows for pepper-spraying, it doesn’t mean it has to be done if not absolutely necessary. The “law” you refer to regarding “active resistance” is likely is intended for crimes more dire than someone passively sitting on walkway. The reason many people are reacting negatively to your column is that it seems that you are supporting police who are looking for any opportunity to use the maximum amount of force. We find it so much more admirable for police to display restraint and to not make a situation worse.

    Despite how it’s been categorized by law enforcement, I disagree that pepper spray is non-assault weapon (let’s just see if the woman who just pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers on Black Friday will get off with no charges). I understand that you believe this was a justified use of it, though, as you stated: “Pepper spray is meant to be used directly to the face, and when used in order to make an arrest it is not deemed an assault by the courts. It would be considered a Use of Force.” However, this shouldn’t be a disagreement over semantics; the real topic of discussion here is a difference of opinion over tangible physical action.

    Clearly, if the chancellor is saying she was “defied” then she did not intend for pepper-spray to be used on non-violent students. So, apparently, police have a very different definition of “assault” than the rest of us do.

    You’ve referred to police “training” and “policies” a number of times, as reason for such police action (as if they have no choice since they were “trained” that way; that’s the “policy” so what can they do?). If that’s true, then the police training and local policies need to change, as these appear quite contrary to the public’s intention of police behavior, whose tax dollars are paying for them.

    In a more recent comment you indicate the chancellor should have asked for police involvement if she didn’t know what that would mean. How could she? How can we be better informed of what to expect from police?

    So, please provide the training information and policies you reference, or please direct me where to obtain copies of them. Thanks.

  41. rivitman says:

    “It is actually quite easy to find legal grounds to expel students, protesters or anyone from a public place”

    Tyranny under color of law.

    From FBI website at

    “It is a crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

    “Color of law” simply means that the person doing the act is using power given to him or her by a governmental agency (local, state or federal).

    Criminal acts under color of law include acts not only done by local, state, or federal officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of their lawful authority. Off-duty conduct may also be covered under color of law, if the perpetrator asserted their official status in some manner.

    Color of law may include public officials who are not law enforcement officers, for example, judges and prosecutors, as well as, in some circumstances, non governmental employees who are asserting state authority, such as private security guards.”

    It’s just as easy to locate moral and constitutional grounds for leaving people alone.

  42. Brian O'Neill says:

    If a civilian authority directs a lawful enforcement action, then it is the job of the police to carry out that order. That happened in this case. What is not in the purview of the civilian authority is the right to subvert the policies set in place by the department itself, to wit using force (pepper spray) against actively resisting subjects defying police directives.

    ‘Nuff said.

  43. Earth_watch says:

    No, no, please… not “‘nuff said”!

    If civilian authorities are directing police to carry out orders, then these authorities (and we the people) deserve to know what methods and under what circumstances these orders will be carried out! Until that’s clear, the UC Davis situation will continue to unnecessarily repeat itself.

    Please direct me to where that information can be obtained and then I’ll stop asking. Thanks.

  44. smokey984 says:

    Told ya….Spoon fed.

  45. Brian O'Neill says:

    If you don’t believe me and want answers about police tactics, I would suggest you start at the state police training commission: If you want specific answers about individual agencies, you’re going to have to make a lot of phone calls.

  46. mjcrites says:

    “Mjcrites, why would you want to discard your previous two comments?”

    Because they were more reactionary than thoughtful and when it comes to police and college campus’s I actually have work experience to backup my comments. I’ll stick with comment number three.

    Also this, I think the important thing in all of this is to ask could this happen on a campus in Washington State? If the answer is yes the I think we can all agree that we’ve got some work to do make sure it wont happen here.

    From my experience I really doubt it would happen here. The regs are really clear (at lest they were when I was on campus) that pepper spray and other uses of force are only to be used to subdue a person that’s a threat or fleeing. The students in Davis were non-compliant, but they weren’t a threat. At the time I was on campus there would have been a provost (or the like) on the scene and he or she would have been in charge of the scene, there wouldn’t have been a chance for a miscommunication between the admin and the police. WSU has had to settle a couple of expensive excessive use of lawsuits in recent history, I doubt the campus’s would want to go through that again. Lastly, I’ve met a bunch of campus cops and honestly, I can’t see a single one of them acting like Lt. Pike. They would have found another way to resolve the conflict.

    “It is actually quite easy to find legal grounds to expel students, protesters or anyone from a public place”

    While it might be quite easy to expel people from a public place, had this happened on a campus in Washington I really doubt any of the protestors would be convicted of anything or had to face any form of discipline.

    Earth Watch,
    Some of the stuff online some of it isn’t. CA campus police policy and procedures are online. Seattle Police policy and procedures are online. Tacoma’s stuff isn’t online, but one email to your city council member is all it would take for you to get a pdf of them. I thought WA’s campus stuff was online, but I can’t find it right now. Man-up and look for it yourself.

  47. Earth_watch says:

    Obviously, I have looked for it, mjcrites; and as you’ve just confirmed, TPD policy is not posted on-line (but I hope you feel better after getting your little slam in). More to the point, if police actions are apparently unclear to even the authorizing authority, then these policies should be made much more readily available… and without having the exact policy for each agency, it’s hard to understand how all police behavior can be so unconditionally defended here, then, time after time.

  48. Earth_watch says:

    By the way, Brian, I never said I “didn’t believe” you… the reason (as I’ve stated) I would like to see these policies is because if they’re being applied, as trained, then the training and the policies needed to change.

  49. FuzzDatWuzz says:

    brian, the constitution trumps any law we can make up to “lawfully” order, oc spray, remove and arrest. you repeatedly assume the police have a lawful right and then go on to correctly recite procedure. however, even the procedure is not written in stone and it is not uncommon for courts and juries to decide what is and is not reasonable procedure long after a precedence for that procedure has been established. the totality of this situation will be dissected, the rule of law applied with a close eye on the first amendment of the constitution. usc title 18 was made for this type of situation and as you alluded to, rightfully so, the officer’s wallet and freedom are at risk. if for no other reason, he should spend time in prison as an example to all other officers who like to walk the thin line of the us constitution. you see, one day, a police supervisor gave a green light to shoot a suspect to any patrolman on scene who had a shot, the next day, a second supervisor said, just because someone says its ok to do something, doesnt make it ok. we must apply all the rules of engagement at that moment deadly force is used. ultimatly a court/jury would decide if our action was lawful. you can bet i took that one to the bank and NEVER forgot the importance. it wasnt long after that there were protest on the tideflats. labor disputes. simply stated, the supervisor reminded us not to take sides, ensure the safety and peace and dont forget that these workers are exercising their constitutional right. another lightbulb moment for a young officer. if you are going to play games with the constitution, then be prepared to have your ass handed to you…

  50. Pacman33 says:

    “’s hard to understand how all police behavior can be so unconditionally defended here, then, time after time.”

    “..then the training and the policies needed to change.”

    Then, why don’t you and OWS protest the laws and policies on crowd control at demonstrations, instead? You feel strongly about it and seem to know more about what these policies should be than the economy and campaign financing. Certainly, the knowledge can’t be less.

    The subject would be substantially easier to articulate for #OWS then the debacle in attempts at the economy and campaign financing. #OWS on the economy, when they are intelligible, only can muster echoes of far-left outfits like, George Soros, big labor bosses, socialists, and outright communists. History proven failed notions of wealth redistribution and something for nothing schemes. Similarly with campaign financing, they bring nothing more to the debate than uninformed bumper sticker phrases like “Corporate Person-hood” and “Corporations are not People”. Never a plan for preventing only the 1% running for office after de-funding campaigns or “Getting the Money Out”. Nor, do they explain how they plan on regulating campaign contributions better than those that have failed over the last +100 years if Citizens United is overturned.

    Redirecting the target to Crowd Control Policy would be a chance to save face by having a direction with an achievable goal to focus on. There is probably enough time to for people to forget the attempts at the earlier message, before 99% of OWS look like hypocrites voting for Obama. The King of Corporate Cronyism with the largest contribution total from Wall Street in history.

    All #OWS has achieved lately is to alienate all of the support they initially had. What do they plan on accomplishing harassing Christmas shoppers, trashing parks and shutting down ports? How can #OWS seriously after chastising those who would stereotype protesters for the actions of a few only to go on this pitiful 2 week tirade painting law enforcement with a broad brush because of one cop in Berkeley?

    What are you people doing ? Over 4,000 arrests? Racking up $14 million tab ? What could this possibly be achieving?
    Hopefully the plan isn’t to follow the the tradition of past leftist protests with the fraudulent claims of victory. Suggesting we would still have troops in Nam today if not for the deplorable behavior protesters. Spitting in the face of the legitimate individuals who achieved their goals to improve the world through hard work and motivation using civilized methods consistent with great American contributions and efforts.

  51. FuzzDatWuzz says:

    pacman sure likes the labels and its clear he does not have any sort of understanding about the OWS movement, head in the sand syndrome, no doubt. it appears youre part of a system, the police, that pays your wages and nice comfy benefits and defend them by being critical of far-left outfits like, socialists, scary commies, GS, The King of Corporate Cronyism with the largest contribution total from Wall Street in history. jesus, what a card.

    clearly blinded by bias, you are making a point to make yourself look like an idiot, not an uncommon trait of the right.

    obama is part of the problem, not the solution, stupid. i am sure you view him as the opposite of a republican, we progressives view him as a republican registered as a democrat. clearly you watch too much faux news. oh, but he still is the best candidate for the job… so far.

    all the protests have a purpose. to raise awareness. duh. even stupid patrolmen can grasp that concept. and they have done a damn good job of raising awareness. opinions are swaying, polls are coming in our direction, not yours. pepper spray on protesters is like water on gremlins. funny how oppressive tactics has that effect, been that way for, oh… maybe, FOREVER!?? DAMN you guys just dont learn. not even three months into the ows, the next step will happen as the whole movement morphs. not at your pace or mine.

    your pessimism is abysmal and pathetic, however, i too see problems with the movement but its nothing compared to the trillions stolen by the banksters, it nothing compared to the ultra rich buying our legislatures. the entire system is broken and will take considerable effort and time to put it back where it belongs, which is, a whole lot more socialist ideas and a whole lot less capitalistic ideas. put your gun down sparky, we will do it peacefully, thru the ballot box. the protesters have more than paid their debt to peacefully protest anyway and anywhere they damn well please, but if you keep getting violent, your safety will be at risk. you will force them to become domestic terrorists. im sure you can put this together, its common sense.

    changing TPD riot control tactics and policy would not be that hard, if they were known. the liberal city council cannot afford expensive litigation, in fact, i have been told by senior tpd they are damn scared of being sued again and i am sure they would welcome an opportunity to avoid a uc davis incident.

    and bryan, your arrogance in thinking a politician does not dictate police tactics is plain naive. well, mostly they dont but if the council member will lose votes as a result of bad public relations by the PD, the chief will march to the council’s tune, whatever that happens to be. the appointed chief will do as told or will be unemployed. what part of that do you not understand? you guys sure can be arrogant, i know its against your nature, it takes work but humble up a little, damn!

  52. Pacman33 says:

    Occupy DC Protesters Use Children as Human Shields

    Communists Take Step to the Left Occupy the Radical 99%

  53. Pacman33 says:

    It has gone far enough. The scoundrels are far to irrational and embittered for any attempts of cooperation. The Occupuds do not see the police officers as crowd control public servants. They see nothing but a robot chicken action figure or an image of a character that they need to pose in an angle that appears physically aggressive for an illustration in their contrived tales of victimhood.

    Using a strategy of multiple photographers and the policy of demon-strators having phones ready to capture random events. After deciding which handful of cowardly tactics would most likely incite the most dramatic reaction. The Occupiers go to work with the goal of provoking an officer of law enforcement into a physical and violent photo-op; to get the “perfect shot” to manipulate and include to their contrived fairy tale in hopes of sympathy and attention to their unknown righteous cause that is still to be determined.

    Despite doing an overall exceptional job the various local authorities still need to wise up and refuse to play into OWS’s cowardly and dishonest game of deception. This can and should be accomplished through a non-lethal method that doesn’t give Occupuds the opportunity to manipulate the officers like characters in their delusional canard. The new strategy can be summed up in two words.
    Two Words :

    L – RAD

  54. Earth_watch says:

    Where did the rest of the comments go?

  55. Earth_watch says:

    Oh, I see Pacman33 has come to contaminate these comments… perhaps that’s why all the previous comments disappeared in an attempt to remove his? (You’ve got to wonder, TNT, when your own editorials are starting to sound like Pacman33 wrote them… and I fear the day our government becomes as extreme as he is.)

    By the way Pacman33, LRAD is one word, not two.

  56. Brian O'Neill says:

    No comments have been removed – those that include more than one link don’t make it past the filter. While I disagree with his comments to the same extent as yours, it seems to me that you lifted the lid on this one.

  57. Earth_watch says:

    Hi Brian,

    Maybe all comments are still viewable to you, but only seven comments (out of the total 57 posted, not counting this one) are currently viewable to your readers…

    We’ve verified this on multiple computers in multiple locations.

  58. Brian O'Neill says:

    I can only assume that the number and length of comments has something to do with the limitations. I will check with tech support and see what’s up. Thanks for the heads up.

  59. Ian Swenson says:

    TNT web guy here:

    Comments are fixed. There was an incorrect setting that paginated comments after 50, but the site was intended for that. Thanks for the notification, @Earth_watch.

  60. Pacman33 says:

    Earth_watch deducted ~
    “By the way Pacman33, LRAD is one word, not two”

    It isn’t one word or two words, it’s an acronym and humor. I’m glad you noted specifics and details within the substance of your disagreement that are relevant with my comment. Oh, never mind.

    Earth_watch squawked ~
    “We’ve verified this on multiple computers in multiple locations”

    We? Who is we? Are you part of some network of hypocritical, leftist extremists(HLE) who have been contradicting themselves on comment boards around the country? Maybe a bunch of unemployed Evergreen State Institution, social science grads(go figure) set up with computers in an unfinished garage? Likely pulling $12 an hour, under the table, for criticizing writers about stereotyping protesters for the actions of a few to only themselves paint law enforcement with a broad brush because of a single cop in Berkeley.

  61. shadowrunner says:

    Maybe I’m a bit behind in the power-curce but have people really lost sight of the fact that UC Davis police already had protestors in custody… and that they had a legal obligation to get those individuals out of the area safely… Which, as near as I can tell, is exactly what they were attempting to do when the protesters sat down and blocked the path….

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