Tool #1: Pepper Spray
The UC Davis officer’s name is Lt. John Pike, a former Marine. He “[w]as honored twice for meritorious service, including a 2006 incident when he decided against using pepper spray against a patient in the campus hospital who was threatening his colleagues with scissors.
But an alleged anti-gay slur by Pike also figured in a discrimination lawsuit a former police officer filed against the department, which ended in a $240,000 settlement in 2008.”
At a Los Angeles area Walmart yesterday, twenty people were pepper sprayed by a female customer as they were all seeking Xbox deals.
Tool #2: Taser
“Don’t tase me, bro.” University of Florida student, Andrew Meyer, was tasered at a 2007 Kerry campaign event.
Yesterday “Polk County Sheriff’s deputies shocked a man with a taser and eventually opened fire on a man after he threw chains and a hammer at them in Lake Wales.”
If the tool exists, it will be used.
I’m afraid of the tools.
We can’t count on people to use them thoughtfully or with discretion. There is spectrum of possible actions between a truncheon and pepper spray. Interesting that a few quotes from police officials suggested that those were the only alternatives during admittedly tense situations.
It’s difficult to argue that the UC Davis incident is worse than Kent State. Discomfort loses to death, as it should. However, the incident does raise important questions about our climate. We may have spent too many hours watching series like 24 where brutality is equated to a sexy, insouciant effectiveness. We’re quick to translate the incident into catchy art. Of course, catchy art can help.
but this catchy poster only worked in the context of a huge, well organized campaign along with millions of dollars.
The abusive use of the tools happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. And in our 24 hour news cycle, where many people live outside of an organizing structure like a union, mosque, church, or the Elks, outrage can float freely without translating into action. The tools, however, harden into policies that are accepted by an increasingly compliant frustrated or fearful body politic. There has been relatively little talk of the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security during recent OWS protests. The discussion’s probably been cowed into silence by the tools.