About Pepper Spray

One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale – as you can see on the widely used chart to the left – puts sweet bell peppers at the zero mark and the blistering habenero at up to 350,000 Scoville Units.

I checked the Scoville Scale for something else yesterday. I was looking for a way to measure the intensity of pepper spray, the kind that police have been using on Occupy protestors including this week’s shocking incident involving peacefully protesting students at the University of California-Davis.

As the chart makes clear, commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It’s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It’s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.

Photo courtesy: California Aggie

The reason pepper-spray ends up on the Scoville chart is that – you probably guessed this –  it’s literally derived from pepper chemistry, the compounds that make habaneros so much more formidable than the comparatively wimpy bells. Those compounds are called capsaicins and – in fact – pepper spray is more formally called Oleoresin Capsicum or OC Spray.

But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.

Until you look it up on the Scoville scale and remember, as toxicologists love to point out, that the dose makes the poison.  That we’re not talking about cookery but a potent blast of chemistry.  So that if OC spray is the U.S. police response of choice  – and certainly, it’s been used with dismaying enthusiasm during the Occupy protests nationwide, as documented in this excellent Atlantic roundup –  it may be time to demand a more serious look at the risks involved.

My own purpose here is to focus on the dangers of a high level of capsaicin exposure. But as pointed out in the 2004 paper, Health Hazards of Pepper Spray, written by health researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, the sprays contain other risky materials:

Depending on brand, an OC spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents.(3) Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.

Their paper focuses mostly, though, on the dangerous associated with pepper-based compounds. In 1997, for instance, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco discovered that the “hot” sensation of habeneros and their ilk was caused by capsaicin binding directly to proteins in the membranes of pain and heat sensing neurons.  Capsaicins can activate these neurons at below body temperature, leading to a startling sensation of heat. Repeated exposure can wear the system down, depleting neurotransmitters, reducing the sensation of the pain. This knowledge has led to a number of medical treatments using capsaicins to manage pain.

Its very mechanism, though, should remind us to be wary. As the North Carolina researchers point out, any compound that can influence nerve function is, by definition, risky. Research tells us that pepper spray acts as a potent inflammatory agent. It amplifies allergic sensitivities, it irritates and damages eyes, membranes, bronchial airways, the stomach lining – basically what it touches. It works by causing pain – and, as we know, pain is the body warning us of an injury.

In general, these are short term effects. Pepper spray, for instance, induces a burning sensation in the eyes in part by damaging cells in the outer layer of the cornea.  Usually, the body repairs this kind of injury fairly neatly. But with repeated exposures, studies find, there can be permanent damage to the cornea.

The more worrisome effects have to do with inhalation – and by some reports, California university police officers deliberately put OC spray down protestors throats.  Capsaicins inflame the airways, causing swelling and restriction. And this means that pepper sprays pose a genuine risk  to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

And by genuine risk, I mean a known risk, a no-surprise any police department should know this risk,  easy enough to find in the scientific literature. To cite just three examples here:

1) Pepper Spray Induced Respiratory Failure Treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation

2) Assessing the incapacitative effects of pepper spray during resistive encounters with the police.

3) The Human Health Effects of Pepper Spray.

That second paper is from a law enforcement journal. And the summary for that last paper notes: Studies of the effects of capsaicin on human physiology, anecdotal experience with field use of pepper spray, and controlled exposure of correctional officers in training have shown adverse effects on the lungs, larynx, middle airway, protective reflexes, and skin. Behavioral and mental health effects also may occur if pepper spray is used abusively.

Pepper spray use has been suspected of contributing to a number of deaths that occurred in police custody. In mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Justice cited nearly 70 fatalities linked to pepper-spray use, following on a 1995 report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union of California. The ACLU report cited 26 suspicious deaths; it’s important to note that most involved pre-existing conditions such as asthma. But it’s also important to note a troubling pattern.

In fact, in 1999, the ACLU  asked the California appeals court to declare the use of pepper spray to be dangerous and cruel. That request followed an action by northern California police officers against environmental protestors – the police were accused of dipping Q-tips into OC spray and applying them directly to the eyes of men and women engaged in an anti-logging protest.

“The ACLU believes that the use of pepper spray as a kind of chemical cattle prod on nonviolent demonstrators resisting arrest constitutes excessive force and violates the Constitution,” wrote association attorneys some 13 years ago.

Today, the University of California-Davis announced that it was suspending two of the police officers who pepper-sprayed protesting students. Eleven of those students were treated by paramedics on scene and two were sent to a hospital in Sacramento for more intensive treatment.

Undoubtedly, these injuries will factor into another scientific study of pepper spray, another acknowledgement that top of the Scoville scale is dangerous territory. But my own preference is that we start learning from these mistakes without waiting another 13 years or more, without engaging in yet another cycle of abuse and injury.

Now would be good.

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183 Responses to About Pepper Spray

  1. hat_eater says:

    Thank you – the scale you provided lends additional meaning to this already deeply disturbing video. And the linked articles provide even more context.

  2. John says:

    And the fat cop abusing the pacific students is
    Lieutenant John Pike
    Records Unit Manager
    Phone: 530-752-3989
    Cell: 530-979-0184
    Skype: japike3

  3. Pingback: Pepper Spraying Peaceful Protestors Continues; This Time at UC Davis | Open Culture

  4. MS Laura says:

    As someone who has been through police academy, I have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be pepper sprayed (by the police grade stuff). We had to experience it to be certified to carry it in the field.

    And as a former forensic toxicologist, I am also familiar with blood samples brought in of people who had collapsed and died after being pepper sprayed. Based on the cases I saw, all the deaths in these circumstances the people had been taking cocaine and been fighting with the law enforcement officers. The combination of the stimulant plus the adrenaline lead to what is known as “excited delirium.” Not one person had a history of asthma or other respiratory illness.

    This is not to say that pepper spray is benign. I tell whomever finds out that I went through OC spray training that it is serious stuff and that if an officer tells you that you are about to be sprayed unless you comply with his/her orders, they’re better off doing what they say. I also had chemical burns for about a week on my chest where the spray dripped down my face.

    I’m against police brutality, but I also know what it’s like to be on the other side, trying to restore order. Large groups of people are dangerous, especially those who feel they have nothing to lose.

  5. Eldon Kimball says:

    I think you have identified the problem. Is pepper spray the way to deal with the problem of people feeling they have nothing left to lose?

  6. MS Laura says:

    Better than bullets, like they do in other countries.

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  9. John says:

    Which countries? Please give a reference for a country where sitting people were shot.
    Do you know in some countries police that control manifestations do not even carry arms?
    In which way those kids had nothing to lose? Do you think they don´t want to live, study, or are suicidal?
    Do you think sitting graduate students are a menace? Why, because they think and you can´t. Or because they are young?
    What is the problem with you? Do you enjoy abusing power? Do you think that because you were traumatized it is ok for other people to suffer the same?

  10. Elizabeth Moon says:

    MS Laura: Do you also feel that “large numbers of people…who feel they have nothing to lose” and are armed with potentially deadly force are “dangerous?” Such as, for instance, a large number of police who know they can always claim a nonviolent person expressing any protest put them in fear of their own safety…and thus “have nothing to lose” by spraying that person?

    Do you really think that people sitting motionless on the ground with their heads bowed are “dangerous” compared to people in uniform spraying them with a chemical that can send them to the hospital?

    I do realize that a crowd can be difficult. But I do not see police wading into hostile crowds at football games (for instance), where alcohol and passionate interest in the game have led to violence, and then carefully spraying those who are sitting still in their seats trying not to be a problem. I do not see police attacking proactively when the lives of non-police citizens are being menaced…they seem to find people, in singles or crowds, “dangerous” only in some circumstances…which involve their fear of their own lives, not their care for the citizens they’re hired to protect.

    The philosophy behind how police handle crowd situations have changed markedly two to three times in my lifetime, as discussed here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2011.00394.x/full
    The force used on “demonstrators” has varied with the police philosophy, not with the level of violence shown by demonstrators, bystanders, media personnel, etc. The current attitude shown by police is in direct conflict with the requirement that citizens have a way to express their opinions of governance to those in governance. It is also against the principle that individuals suspected of a crime are innocent until proven guilty…and the students sitting on the ground being sprayed had not been violent. Thus, given that the foundations of our nation gave “freedom of assembly” the same weight as “freedom of speech,” allowing oneself to categorize anyone–singly or in a group–as deserving of punishment because they “might” be violent, or they “might” think they have nothing to lose–or they scare you–is wrong. It is the same kind of thinking that led to the Kent State massacre.

    I don’t know about your military experience, if any, MS Laura–mine is Viet Nam era, USMCR–but my oath to uphold and defend the Constitution is still in force in my heart. My oath was to defend this country and its people and its guaranteed freedoms–including those students sitting quietly on the ground while a police officer walked by with a smirk on his face hosing them with a toxic gas. I feel the same way the Marine on the NYC streets did, when he confronted police officers about their unwarranted attacks on civilians. This is not how America is supposed to be. This is not how law enforcement is supposed to act.

  11. Matt says:

    Wow. Posting his private information? Way to completely destroy your credibility. Yes, lets put him, his family, and friends at risk. ‘Cause that’s the right thing to do.

    That’s sarcasm, btw. I feel I should point that out, because your post leads me to believe that you are not quite adept at critical thinking and recognizing subtle nuance.

    Petty, passive-aggressive revenge-esque acts like this are the stuff of cowards.

  12. Tired of stupidity says:

    Let’s post all of your personal information! Do you, for one second think the students were not warned before they were sprayed? They had a choice to leave or get sprayed, how about that conversation? There is such a thing as a lawful order, which, if ignored, then brings about lawful enforcement action.

  13. Gaythia says:

    I’d like to thank Deborah Blum for writing this highly informative post. Sadly, this material needs to be widely distributed at this time.

    All of us have a responsibility to insist, through our governmental representatives, that police actions fully respect the rights of individuals and groups under our Constitution. Police officers deserve training and leadership that skill them in legal and Constitutional matters and help them develop community policing methods that build mutual respect between the police and the public they serve.

    I’d also like to commend the well written comment by @Elizabeth Moon above. This comment contains much that ought to be widely discussed in our country right now. I’d like to encourage her to reformat the sentiments there in a more generalized way and work towards finding wider venues.

  14. Deborah Blum says:

    Thank you for this eloquently put and absolutely right perspective, Elizabeth. The America that I admire and respect is a country built on a foundation of respect for the rights of our citizens to express their opinions. And the right to challenge and question authority. There’s no good argument that I know for responding to a peaceful protest with violence in this way. Such actions convey the impression – wrongly, I hope – that our authorities, our leaders, our police are opposed to everyday citizens standing up for their beliefs. And that is definitely not what America is supposed to be.

    And I wrote this post with the idea that, perhaps, people are not always fully informed about the hazards associated with pepper spray use and that greater awareness would encourage more caution and more hesitation in the use of such chemical agents. Again, that presumes, of course, that our authorities continue to uphold the principle that freedom of expression should be protected and that everyone in this country deserves a chance to be heard.

  15. John says:

    The information is public, he is a public officer with records on the web or do you think he is my neighbor or I work in the CIA or some foreign intelligence agency?

    And he needs to be protected from what?

    And your thoughts are?

  16. John says:

    I am not a public officer wearing a mask. And I did not abuse power.

    Why don´t you post you support Lt Pepper, or better yet give him a call or send him a cake?

    Once black people had the chance to sit in the back seats. It seems you miss those times.

  17. John says:

    Out of curiosity “Tired of stupidity”, did you go to University?

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  19. Like most people, I had no idea that pepper spray could be lethal. I was astounded to learn that:

    Pepper spray is banned for use in war by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the use of all riot control agents in warfare whether lethal or less-than-lethal.[18] In the US, when pepper spray is used in the workplace, OSHA requires a pepper spray MSDS be available to all employees.[citation needed]
    Wikipedia: Pepper Spray: Legality

    If pepper spray is too terrible to use in war, why are authorities using it on peaceful protesters?

  20. UC Davis Student says:

    I’m sorry, but I walked by the protest as this was happening. There are many large groups of people who I agree are dangerous, but I think my fellow students proved that they weren’t. The cops were moving in and out of the crowd unimpeded, and the protesters didn’t even fight back. They weren’t dangerous, and they didn’t expect to be pepper sprayed- they just thought they were going to get arrested, like it said in the letter that got passed out at 2:30.

  21. Karen says:

    I confess that I’m not a toxicologist, nor have I ever had reason (much to my discredit, given the current discussion) to have been pepper sprayed during a protest, but I know enough to know that this constitutes punishment without conviction, a proposition our Bill of Rights repeatedly rejected.

    You see, I suffer what I call, “white woman’s stomach”, by which I mean that my entire body rejects the chemical effects of multiple Scoville units, from my head to my… tailbone.

    Even handling especially spicy poblano chiles (1,000-2,000 Scovilles) raises hives on my hands and any part of me that those hands might touch by accident. Some of those accidental contacts haven’t been benign.

    So, to any of you “hot heads” who think you’re so brave that you guzzle hot sauce in public to prove your courage and resilience and thus believe that this was an innocuous event, I’d like to encourage you to get some Habaneros, chop them in the food processor, then spread the puree in your shorts. Walk around for awhile. Let us all know how well you like it.

    Because that’s how most people respond to Habaneros in their mouth — for a few moments, followed immediately by a glass of milk as a chaser. What you have come to consider a dare is the same chemistry that can render others completely incapacitated (which is the reason pepper spray is used by police and by forest rangers — against Grizzly Bears) and can even kill, depending on the target’s physiology.

    But I guess you hot heads don’t care if police kill “the weak” — or even just someone who has a strong reaction to something you can stand, despite the fact that there are many other things that would make you cower in a corner.

    Like the truth that none of this was necessary.

  22. Sixstring says:

    Thank you for posting this.

    Everyone should copy this article and print it out (with the url so people can go to the source if they so choose). Then it should be given to police and city council members and mayors. Tell them they now can not claim they thought it was ok to use. Stay Peaceful folks, but do NOT grow silent.


  23. Pingback: When is Pepper Spray Appropriate? #OccupyCanada « Laurel L. Russwurm

  24. kurt says:

    Some police-grade pepper sprays are mixtures containing CS (tear gas) or CN (Mace) along with the OC (capsaicin).

    Was Lt. John Pike’s OC spray seasoned with CS or CN?

    What are the health effects of spraying directly down the throat and airway while forcing the mouth open?

    Many OC sprays contain hazardous propellants and solvents (PDF).

  25. mikey says:

    Well you know what that guy could of ignited in the country with his actions If he started spraying the second can like it looked like he was about to do? He deserves more then just a lil tap on the wrist.

  26. AW says:

    It is chilling–and indicative of the mentality of police in your country–that you feel those are the only two options.

  27. karl says:

    But isn’t 16,000,000 the measurement for pure?

  28. Leah says:

    Capsicum spray is for controlling aggressive and violent protestors. These students were not aggressive or violent. They could have just as easily been handcuffed and dragged into paddywagons. But no, they were repeatedly with chemicals that could kill them. It was a blatant misuse of a weapon. It’s like a cop shooting an unarmed 14 year old shoplifter. Sure, he shouldn’t have been shoplifting, but shooting him is totally OTT.

  29. Leah says:

    *they were SPRAYED repeatedly

  30. Leah says:

    Large groups of people sitting on the ground? They’re dangerous?

    Look, I am really no fan of protests and think there are better ways of going about making your point and making changes. I am also very pro-police powers and definitely not in the camp that wants to take pepper spray, guns and tasers off cops. They need those tools for their jobs and 99% of them use them responsibly. But people do have the right to protest and you can’t spray them with pepper spray just because there’s a “large group” of people.

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  32. Neurobonkers says:

    Great article but you forgot to mention the most shocking thing…

    Pepper spray is banned in warfare under the Geneva Convention!

  33. Ben says:

    Since when do Americans follow the Geneva convention to the letter?

  34. pat says:

    There seems to be a lot of confusion on this issue, including my own. why the officers were isnstruted to disperse the students is beyond me.
    but, since they were, most police departments require officers to carry pepper spray and train them (which includes getting sprayed) to use it as their first option if they meet any resistance whatsoever when trying to move people such as those students. Resistance includes pulling yourself away or rolling into a ball or fetal position. The belief is that less people will be seriously injured with pepper spray than physical force alone.
    You may not agree with the policy but, the officer was following procedure.

    Also, i must agree with Matt, posting his info could endanger his family, not cool.

  35. NV says:

    But they do use bullets in this country. Excessively

  36. JD says:

    Have things really changed?


    I grow Ghost Chilis (Bhut Jolokias) and other ultrahot chilis and I certainly would not want to be sprayed as I know first hand what a little naga chili in the eye can do.

    So I guess Ghandi would have been sprayed?

    And I did a pubmed search and indeed very little research has been done on “pepper” spray.

  37. frank savulis says:

    Yoo, Matt..Shouldn’t you be out somewhere protesting a jobs bill

  38. I Remember Nuremburg says:

    “Following procedures” isn’t the most robust defense for potentially-lethal chemical assault on fellow citizens.

    It’s true, police departments all over the nation do currently have policies that include threatening the lives of nonviolent citizens who offer passive resistance.

    That this week’s videos have shocked the conscience of many decent Americans suggests that there is some hope of reviewing and repealing policies more suited to the Soviet Union than the United States of America.

  39. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I am saddened by the destructive direction law enforcement is headed. When I was a child police acted like *peace* officers – everything form their uniforms, equipment and demeanor suggested that their job was “To Protect and Serve.”
    Alas, over the years police departments have become para-military units. They dress and act as a military garrison – and the equip themselves as such.
    This trend is more dangerous than any crimes or protests that I can imagine. This erodes the foundation of the democracy when the public feels that they are living in a police state. When police say they must respond to peaceful – but civilly-disobedient – citizens with chemical non-lethal force or lethal force they are kicking the legs out from under our democracy. People notice that white collar criminals are never pepper-sprayed or tasered.

    What America needs today is heroes. Folks brave enough to to put themselves (and their career) at risk for the safety of others. We do not need cowards who disperse potesters because they make them nervous or frightened (I’m talking about those who send in the cops here). We do not need bullies who seize the opportunity to abuse their power on unarmed protesters (I’m talking about the cops here).

    I am afraid that the NextGen of OWS will be protesting police and political thuggery, too… and from there things could quickly escalate into wide spread rioting. The powder keg is full and the sparks are flying.

    We need to realize that when people feel that everything has been taken away and they have nothing left to lose no force can stop them – just look at Afghanistan over the past 2,000 years.

    Is that what we want for America?

    Where are the heroes?

  40. Christian says:

    By taking the actions he took, he placed himself (and family at risk) at risk. Until individuals who have been granted positions of power are held responsible for their actions, they have no reason to act responsibly. This is why he took the actions he did; officers, politicians and executives have no personal responsibility. Losing your job after commenting an act of violence is not inline with the act itself. Losing your executive job after robbing the public of billions is not inline with the crime. The fact of the matter is (and this has been true from the beginning of time) that if the legal system and government fail to hold those that abuse their powers accountable -personally- the people will. The people will only subscribe to and follow the law if it upholds justice through positive law. If it fails, natural law will do it. In my opinion, that officer should be either put in jail, or held down by the people and sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

  41. Christian says:

    You need to read the constitution. Any lay prohibiting the peaceful gathering of citizens is unconstitutional.
    That, and most peoples info is available to the public. It only matters if you are a dick and spray people in the face with pepper sprayer for sitting.

  42. Christian says:

    The constitutions is clear about this; “No law shall be enacted… …interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.” Your assuming that large groups are dangerous is fallacious. Any single person or group can be dangerous. But, they are not inherently. Is a church gathering dangerous? No. That is a propaganda used by governments and police to justify violating the constitution. There was nothing dangerous about those people sitting there. That was a direct and willful crime committed by that officer. Period, and he will lose his job for it. If he was ordered to do it, he took an other to not follow illegal orders.

  43. pat says:

    pepper spray is not considderred a lethal weapon. it is considerred safer than using physical force alone.

  44. Deborah Blum says:

    In fact, pepper spray is classified as a chemical agent/weapon by many countries around the world and its sale and use are restricted here and around the world. As to comparing to “physical force”, it would depend, wouldn’t it, on what kind of force we were talking about.

  45. Deborah Blum says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments here. I absolutely agree that we need to think about the direction that such response to protests seem to be taking the country. And to also remember that the issues that sparked the protests have some real merit – would rather see our government work on fixing some of these problems rather than suppressing opinion about them. And, definitely, heroes are ever needed!

  46. Deborah Blum says:

    Nicely put, Leah.

  47. pat says:

    ok, i’ll bite.
    once orderred to do so,
    how should they have removed them?

  48. Sarah says:


  49. In Canada, pepper spray is is a prohibited weapon. Such things are illegal for private citizens to possess. We can’t carry one of these handy cannisters in a pocket or purse to defend against rapists, murderers or bears.

    Of course, Canadian police are allowed to spray peaceful Canadian protesters with the stuff, and have.

  50. pat says:

    i strongly agree.

    that is why i will ask again for that officer’s personal information to be removed .
    thank you

  51. Has no one told the police that peaceful nonviolent protest is legally protected?

    If I were to call the police to complain my husband was annoying me and I wanted him removed from my home, wouldn’t the police first assess the situation? If he was standing over me with a butcher knife they might shoot him with a gun. If he was sitting quietly in the den, they might try to mediate, but it is unlikely they would go shoot him with pepper spray.

    It used to be that police in democracies were thought to keep the peace, not break it. Since when are police mercenaries that can be deployed as bouncers?

    If my child was at that university, in that city, I would be manning the phone lines and mounting petitions to get both that chancellor and police chief summarily fired. And/or damn well getting my money back from a university that run by someone who would choose to use force on the students entrusted to her care.

    But the police do not get a free pass either. “Just following orders” doesn’t wash for war crimes, nor should it for urban policing.

  52. pat says:

    i am not an attorney so maybe i didnt understand it. why is it we should we read it?


  53. JD says:

    Forgot this:

    US FEDERAL APPEALS COURT Legal Precedence: “We concluded in our prior opinion that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the protestors, a rational juror could conclude that the use of pepper spray against the protestors constituted excessive force and that [officers] Lewis and Philip were liable for the protestors’ unconstitutional injury. 240 F.3d at 1199-1209. This analysis is consistent with Saucier’s first inquiry viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the protestors, [officers] Lewis and Philip violated the protestors’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force.* “

  54. pat says:

    because you feel it should be a crime does make it one.
    i think even the most liberal of us knows that when the police stop following orders we are only a few steps away from lawlessness.
    the problem is with the policy and the belief that pepper spray is the safest tactic.
    in this situation (from what i saw) it was not needed. in many cases it is, and is a useful tool.

  55. pat says:

    yes i saw that.
    i thought it was about that particular case where the spray was not applied properly, in fact there was a clear warning on the canister NOT to use it in that fashion.

  56. Deborah Blum says:

    Thanks. Really useful citation and a valuable perspective on our current situation as well.

  57. LM says:

    Characterizing the protestors’ activities as “active resistance” is contrary to the facts of the case, viewing them, as we must, in the light most favorable to the protestors:  the protestors were sitting peacefully, were easily moved by the police, and did not threaten or harm the officers. In sum, it would be clear to a reasonable officer that it was excessive to use pepper spray against the nonviolent protestors under these circumstances….repeated use of pepper spray was also clearly unreasonable.   As we recently concluded, the use of pepper spray “may be reasonable as a general policy to bring an arrestee under control, but in a situation in which an arrestee surrenders and is rendered helpless, any reasonable officer would know that a continued use of the weapon or a refusal without cause to alleviate its harmful effects constitutes excessive force.”  LaLonde v. County of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947, 961 (9th Cir.2000

    Because the officers had control over the protestors it would have been clear to any reasonable officer that it was unnecessary to use pepper spray to bring them under control, and even less necessary to repeatedly use pepper spray against the protestors when they refused to release from the “black bears.” It also would have been clear to any reasonable officer that the manner in which the officers used the pepper spray was unreasonable.  Their superiors “authorized full spray blasts of [pepper spray], not just Q-tip applications,” despite the fact that the manufacturer’s label on the canisters of pepper spray defendants used “ ‘expressly discouraged’ spraying [pepper spray] from distances of less than three feet.” 240 F.3d at 1195, 1208.

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  60. pat says:

    i don’t think i said anything about “active resistence”. i actualy said from what i saw i t was beyond me why it was deemed neccasry. i am not defending the action, i am defending the officer who follwed an order that was not unlawful and that he was trained to do.
    if we fall into the trap of blaming the foot soldiers we lose sight of the real issue.
    it is the policy of the police departments to use pepper spray as their first tactic. that is what we should be addressing.

    also, could you please remove that officers personal info. his family did not spray anyone.

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  62. JD says:

    The officers information is all over the net already. It won’t do any good to remove it from here.

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  64. pat says:

    police departments all over the country refuse to change policy, why should we change ours?
    that’s sarcasm.

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  67. MagnumStach says:

    When you engage in acts that you know can cause repercussions, well, expect those repercussions and plan for them. Hopefully, things will turn positive and you will get your point across peacefully and without pain. Civil disobedience in this country, however justified, is often met with non-lethal (most of the time) and painful repercussions. Following this vein of thought, in times of heightened emotion and fear from both parties involved, overreaction sometimes occurs which I believe this video is evidence of. So stand strong and accept what you know is a possibility — right or wrong.

    With this said, you can take some precautions. What often happens is that after people are sprayed, they immediately douse themselves (namely their and each others faces) with water. Be VERY careful when flushing your eyes and face with water as it can also carry the contaminant down the front of your body. Water also often re-engages the effects of the spray, however, if that is the only way to get the spray off then use it. Don’t wash the contaminant down the front of your body — think about it (what’s on the anterior side of your body and inferior to your head? You guessed it! Your naughty bits). The BEST thing to use is Sudecon Wipes (purchase link below):


    With these, you can wipe away most of the contaminant (use about two for the effected area). In 10 minutes or so you should be back to some sort of normal. Also, remember that the effects are ultimately transient and generally finite — the pain WILL stop. Be calm, don’t get so hyped up that you tax an already effected and taxed respiratory system, i.e. freak out and hyperventilate. Concentrate on slowing your breathing, you are in control and know that the event will be over in most cases — barring an anaphylactic response and or the exacerbation of a previous medical condition. If you have previous respiratory issues or anaphylaxis to peppers, than don’t put yourself in a position where this sort of repercussion may be used. Stay peaceful, strive for calm (hard but necessary), know that there will be an end to the pain.

    There are known repercussions to civil disobedience, however, your cause may very well be worth the short amount of pain and discomfort.

  68. I’ve been saying this for years.

    These so called “non-lethal means” like pepper spray can cause serious damage, or even death.

    Non-lethal is determined by the result, not the actual thing being used, and calling this “non-lethal” garbage “non-lethal” is horribly misleading.

    Stop assuming that it’s OK for the police to use this stuff on anyone let alone law abiding citizens using their American Constitutionally protected rights just because it’s mislabeled “non-lethal.”.

    The police are thugs hired by the rich to enforce the whims of the rich, protect the rich, and put the middle/poor classes in body bags.

    The rich are allowed to break the law without consequence far more often than not, and directly profit from the private jail slave labor camps that are bankrupting local government with their 500% markups.

    Use the keywords “police brutality” in Google search, or on YouTube to see what I mean. Do you really think that they treat the rich and the non-rich the same?

    Open your eyes.

  69. It has nothing to do with my beliefs; assault is assault.

    What you fail to see that when police behave like thugs they lose both the respect and support of ordinary law abiding citizens. This doesn’t engender respect for the law, rather it instills contempt in the law, which could lead to lawlessness.

    People are responsible for their actions. If anything, police need to be even more responsible for their behaviour than ordinary citizens. If they are ordered to commit assault on peaceful citizens without provocation they need to find the courage to say “no”.

    A few years ago I would have gone out of my way to assist the police. Today I would cross the street when I see them coming because I no longer trust the police to act in the public interest.

  70. pat says:

    well said

  71. What is “lawful” ? Laws are made by people. Bad laws are made by people. Bad decisions are made by people all the time.

    Bad laws don’t change unless people say NO. That is why peaceful protest is so important and must be protected.

    Police officers are not robots, they are human beings who are responsible for their actions. They can say “No”. And according to the law cited earlier in the comments, if they don’t, they may well be liable to criminal charges for such assaults.

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  74. pat says:

    officers are trained that the pepper spray tactic is the safest way to handle these situations. they get sprayed in their training, they know how it feels. Why would they say no? their experienced senior officers tell them to execute a procedure as trained. or they make the decision on their own, based on their training.
    i cant understand why the public blames the officer and why they think its ok to put his families address and other info out for all the nujobs to see.

    if you dont like the laws get them changed, dont blame those who are sworn to upkold them.

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  76. Karen says:

    I think there are a number of emotional and legal issues that are being lumped together here (and in the general public discourse) that are important to untangle:

    1: the danger/efficacy of the use of pepper spray by police
    2: the urgency of removing the protesters
    3: the imminent danger posed by the protesters
    4: the difficulty of removing the protesters in time to prevent harm to the general health and safety of the community
    5: the culpability of each member of the chain of command, from the chancellor, to the officer spraying the pepper spray, to the protesters themselves
    6: the availability of lesser means of averting the standoff

    I am probably missing a few salient points, but it seems clear to me that responses nationwide seem to concentrate on these issues.

    I would like to thank our hostess, Deborah Blum for raising the importance of issue #1 to our attention, purely from a scientific standpoint. Having a native sensitivity to capsaicin, I had a ballpark idea of the torment these protesters were subjected to, but the numbers are very useful to counter people who think this amounted to some bizarre sort of “hazing” analog. As others have pointed out, pepper spray is, in many jurisdictions, a controlled substance, and is rightly considered to have potentially lethal consequences.

    I think the major (legitimate) controversy seems to center around issues 5 & 6, since the Chancellor (as of this morning — we shall see how long she lasts) has conceded that there wasn’t much urgency or immanent danger posed by the protesters as they were configured at the time they were sprayed.

    Under long settled U.S. Constitutional legal jurisprudence (although little seems settled under the current Supreme Court), police powers, when exercised against those exercising their right of free speech under the 1st Amendment, must be subjected to the test of the “least restrictive alternative.” This is where settled law insists that issue #4 should be carefully calculated, considering all the alternative methods of resolving a breach of the peace (issue #6).

    I have heard no claims that the Campus police attempted to employ any tactics beyond order the protesters to move, and, when they did not comply, spraying them with pepper spray. As many have repeatedly remarked, this flies in the face of the decades-old tradition of having police physically pick up, cuff, and cart away protesters to jail, where they could expect to be bailed out with, at most, a bruise or two.

    In other words, the Campus police did not employ the least restrictive alternative. They moved straight past removing the “problem” to punishing the “troublemakers”.

    In the world of Dirty Harry, these steps are compressed into split-second decisions made in the blink of an eye. The bad guys are dangerous — about to kill untold numbers of civilians, and the good guy is defending himself and others by acting on instinct.

    On the U.C. Davis campus last Friday, Dirty Harry wasn’t present (no-one but the man wielding the pepper spray would have been likely to compare that rotund, lethargic figure to Clint Eastwood), and neither were there any obvious “dirtbags”. Instead, there was a small, relatively passive seated crowd, surrounded by police in full riot gear, who were, in turn, being closely watched by a somewhat larger crowd of what can, at first, only be described as gawkers and hangers-on.

    In other words, there was no clear and present danger, no immanent threats from protesters — and no attempts by police to find the “least restrictive alternative”.

    Instead, there appears to have been a command, followed by punishment for failure to comply with the command.

    In other words, in my mind, the only issues remaining revolve around issue #5.

    So far, many seem to have had the knee jerk response of attacking the students as a bunch of punk kids. To my knowledge, none of the actual protesters were, in fact, under the age of majority. In other words, disagree with their actions all you want, but understand that they were entitled to the same 1st Amendment rights as a middle-aged banker.

    Others have had the knee jerk response of criticizing the officer involved — and rightly so. Settled jurisprudence has long established that the orders of a superior officer cannot absolve his or her underlings of actions they knew or should have known were wrong.

    Two officers (to my knowledge) have been placed on paid leave, as has the U.C. Davis Police Chief (remember, as a State University, all of these police officers were acting “under color of authority”, meaning that they would likely claim, if sued for the assault this is, as others have pointed out, that they were simply acting out their orders).

    This is where the Chancellor has proven herself to be a complete and utter failure as a human being — and, under international treaty, a potential war criminal. You see, when reports first surfaced, she defended the police and the orders she had given them. Friday night, she professed fear of walking to her car, given the crowd of students who had gathered to watch what amounted to a perp walk to her car. By yesterday morning, she was concerned that ‘the campus police had over-reacted.”

    You expect to hear this sort of flip-flopping in a third-world country when a dictator finds his or her palace surrounded, but to hear it from someone empowered to teach the values of civility and citizenship to our country’s next generation of leaders is chilling.

    So, in my mind, as we debate all of the issues involved, everyone involved should be investigated fully — from those who gave the orders to those who carried them out, as well as those who were protesting the administration. Only when everyone who had an ability to avoid this monstrous event has had their role thoroughly explained will we have a chance to keep it from taking place again.

    Of course, I’m assuming that I still live in a country where we all agree that this should not take place again.

  77. Deborah Blum says:

    In the post, I noted that the very name “pepper spray” makes this chemical agent sound rather domestic, less dangerous than it actually is. In fact, Fox News is taking that very approach, suggesting that this is really nothing more than a “food product.” http://gawker.com/5861688/its-a-food-product-essentially-fox-news-starts-spinning-pepper-spray-cops

  78. JD says:

    Again as someone who grows Bhut Jolokias and a Toxicologist I found this rather bizarre. Do a search on “OC Spray MSDS”. MSDS is the acronym for material safety data sheet, which every chemical must have and all places of business must have on file.

  79. JD says:

    Very well written response. My gut reaction to the video was to start humming “Four dead in Ohio”. See reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

  80. Dave says:

    Yes, quite chaotic, all those students sitting on the sidewalk like that. Glad the cops were there to “restore order.”

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  83. Joe Aristotle says:

    Wow! So you are making a veiled threat. “Well if we don’t use chemical weapons spray, then we will use bullets. Better get in line or else.” This is nothing but a red herring. So I guess from your training you learned that there are minimum and maximum distances recommended by manufacturers of these products, and different grades of intensity and they should be chosen appropriately? It appears the officer was not only operating outside those recommendations but also outside the force policy of the UC system. An alternative would have been (and I say “an alternative” because there were many alternatives) to go to each protester and say “I am going to arrest you now. Are you going to resist?” as has been done in the past. Most protesters will acknowledge this and will be arrested. They know that is the point. I find it amazing that people can equate the use of force with moral judgment as you have done.

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  85. Anon says:

    Since when does any country. Let’s be honest.

  86. Elizabeth says:


    The police don’t use regular pepper spray, they use an equivalent to bear mace. It says on the bottle to go to an emergency room if it touches your skin. It causes chemical burns and is that sticky substance that sticks to you, not the mist like with pepper spray on “self-defense” key chains. It’s dangerous nasty stuff and will stop a 400 pound bear in its tracks. And they’re using that on people.

  87. Leo says:

    Putting up his private information is the WRONG WAY to go about this. Sure, he might be some of the lowest scum ever to wear a police uniform (although I assure you, there’s worse), but even he has the right to due process… and his family deserves their privacy.

    The RIGHT WAY to do this is to send letters, e-mails, and phone calls to his supervisors. Write petitions. Get the man fired, and leave him unable to EVER work in law enforcement again… and do it through the correct channels.

  88. Salient says:

    This is not private information, and is information that by law must be given to any citizen* who requests it (officers usually carry business cards for this purpose). The posted information above is not only publicly available, it is literally and legally “public information” in the strict sense that applies to law enforcement officers.

    *There are time-delay exceptions, in that you can’t request the card in mid-arrest and expect to receive it before being handcuffed, for example.

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  90. Salient says:

    Link bookmarked and forwarded. Thanks for the pro tip.

  91. Leo says:

    Restoring order when a true RIOT has broken out is one matter. Riots are dangerous to life, limb, and property. Sometimes, the use of force is needed.

    Spraying people (excessively, might I add) in the face and directly down their throats when they are sitting on the ground and making NO threatening movements is another matter.

    Police need to learn the difference between a peaceful protest and a true riot. Police also have to learn not to INSTIGATE riots. Peaceful assemblies turn chaotic when police start strong-arming their way through, shoving people around, and stirring the pot. And chaos leads to true rioting.

    There’s a reason pepper spray is called a “RIOT CONTROL” agent… not a “crowd control” or “protest control” agent. It’s meant for extreme situations. Turning it against unarmed people who are not engaging in any truly threatening behavior is an abuse of power.

    There seems to be a mentality of “I have pepper spray, so y0u’d better do what I say,” even if the order from the cop is unlawful. Does might make right? I thought we’d progressed beyond that caveman mentality. There’s a reason people employ peaceful protests and sit-ins. They’re not SUPPOSED to be convenient. If they were convenient, people could ignore them. Instead, they’re inconvenient… but also NON-violent. When the police use violence against nonviolent protesters (fire hoses against civil rights marchers, for example), all it does is make even clearer who is right and who is wrong.

    My sister is a forensic chemist, and she tells me stories all the time, so I know the crazy stuff that comes across your lab bench. But your anecdotes of blood tests indicating people strung out on drugs who died from pepper spray doesn’t mean that innocent folks haven’t died from it. The application of pepper spray, like rubber bullets or other “non-lethal” deterrents, needs to be considered as having the potential to kill someone before you use it. (And by the way… you say “based on the cases [I] saw.” Just how many deaths-by-pepper-spray have you seen?)

    I’m a biologist. I was also in the Army for seven years, and spent part of that time as a Chemical Operations Specialist. We got to play with CS gas all the time. I trained in it (without a mask) more times than I can count. That stuff is brutal, and there’s no way I would inflict any sort of chemical irritant like that on anyone who wasn’t directly threatening serious harm to life, limb, or property.

    And finally, in a comment below, you say it’s better that they use pepper spray than bullets “like they do in other countries.” Sure, SOME countries… extremist countries with highly controlling regimes. However, there are many countries that have far better human rights records than the USA has. Most British police don’t even carry guns. The USA has an embarrassing record of police brutality and excessive use of force.

    Folks are right… police are starting to act like paramilitary agencies, and believe me, I’ve seen enough military action to know the difference.

    So sad.

  92. Dave says:

    Just as cops each have to receive a ‘tase’ in the back before they are allowed to use the taser, perhaps they should all get a shot of OC? If the take a normal face-full, that is all they are allowed to administer. If they’re prepared for a throat-load, then they can do that to others.

    I wonder how many would be up for the challenge. Oh, and it would be protesters administering the OC too, not tame police that go easy on each other.

  93. Jack E. Lope says:

    I am glad that the officer’s private information was removed.

    I see many complaints here about his private information endangering his home and family, and I am glad that those complaints have been addressed – since the only information I find here is his business information that is made available in the course of his work…no information that would identify his family members, home address, home phone, et cetera.

  94. pat says:

    Both officers were trained in the use of pepper spray as department policy dictates, and both had been sprayed with it themselves during training, the chief noted


  95. pat says:

    @ Laurel L. Russwurm
    our beliefs have everything to do with this, and yours is just as important as mine or the protesters or the officers.
    i think what i am not making clear is that the police are trained that this is the safest method to use, therefore,(to them) not a crime, and not assault but a tactic
    i’m sure if they thought it was assault or any crime they would refuse to comply.
    they may not be highly educated but, they have beliefs, as pointed out, they are human beings.
    they also know everybody has a cell phone and that they will be judged on their actions. they are ok with that because they believe they are enforcing the law in the best way available.

    this does not make it right any more then your accusation of assault makes it wrong. it points out that the policy is flawed and the communication about the policy is terribly flawed as well.

  96. craig leavitt says:

    There is no protection promised for scoff-laws in this country. Most just think they are free of disfavor who act like this man. He indeed needs his info shared; as does all of congress and every corporation ‘head’. ERK!


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  98. craig leavitt says:

    I know a relative when I see one.

  99. craig leavitt says:

    YES, SURE, there hasn’t been large groups of people causing dangerous possibilities since the original American Revolution. Large groups of private-by choice people are more than dangerous, who wish to control the money market; that same market that feeds working families. Get your large groups all-inclusive, plaese.


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  101. Carla says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Scoville_scale#Pepper_Spray makes the point that even though the pepper spray is labelled as 5.3 million units, an actual blast measures 106,000 units due to being diluted in the can. Still painful but we should be accurate in our comparisons.

  102. Bill Comstock says:

    While everyone is sharing how “deeply disturbing” these videos are please be reminded that this “tolerable level” of pepper spray was determined by cruely testing this chemical on poor defenseless animals. How sad

  103. David says:

    If I had responded to police use of pepper spray by using the same spray on them, would it be a “tactic” to get the police to leave my peers alone, or would I be tackled to the ground, arrested, and charged with assaulting an officer of the peace. Using pepper spray IS assault.

  104. ben says:

    In warfare, it would be used in a totally different way and in totally different amounts.

    The fact that it is banned there, says NOTHING about whether it should be allowed for police officers to use it in the form of little flasks that spray small amounts of harmless concentration.

  105. bobbski says:

    No, a coward is someone who uses pepper spray on non-threatening demonstrators. If he applied his energy to working out perhaps he would not have a gut shaped like a beer barrel.

  106. bobbski says:

    “Do you, for one second think the students were not warned before they were sprayed? ”


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  108. Sol says:

    Police procedure for use of pepper spray is pretty clear. It’s indication does not include spraying peaceful protestors for dispersion. That actually goes against the UC’s police guidelines for pepper spray use. So it does not matter if they did or did not warn the protestors. The police officers’ use of pepper spray AND the manner in which it was applied goes against their own policies.

  109. Sol says:

    Then you know what they did goes against what they are told to do, as per their own policies.

  110. Sol says:

    It has been reported that the officers did not follow policy. Their use of the pepper spray and the manner of which they dispensed it went against their own procedures.

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  115. pat says:

    interesting, where did you find that information?

  116. Charles J. Mueller says:

    “Do you, for one second think the students were not warned before they were sprayed?”

    So by that line of reasoning, do you also believe that would also be ok to shoot a unarmed shoplifter, providing that he was warned before he suffered life-threatening injury or was shot to death?

    You might wish to bring yourself up to speed with respect to Police use of excessive force.


  117. Charles J. Mueller says:

    “Large groups of people are dangerous, especially those who feel they have nothing to lose.:

    Good grief. A half-dozen kids, totally unarmed, sitting peacefully on the pavement of a University in protest are “dangerous”?

    Can you in all honesty, state that these kids had “nothing to lose”?

    Did you even watch the film-clip of the cop nonchalantly spraying those kids like so many bugs on his lawn? Not once…but twice, for good measure to make sure that they don’t draw their concealed sabers, swords and military assault weapons on the police?

    Talk about paranoia.

    Talk about abuse of police force.

    Thank goodness you were not there. With your obvious need to cover for your police cohorts and abusers of power, you probably would have felt the need to drop a “throw-down gun” next to the kids to “prove” that they were about to shoot you.

    Shame on you.

  118. Charles J. Mueller says:

    In all fairness, Laurel S. Russworm, It should be noted that Wikipedia stated that this claim needs additional citation for verification.

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  121. Alan says:

    MagnumStach makes the point that when being civilly disobedient, one should be prepared for the consequences— and you agreed with him. Now, perhaps I’m misunderstanding you… but it seems to me like you’re saying we shouldn’t apply the same thoughts to the officers involved in this. Perhaps you would be willing to explain why that is, assuming of course you are still checking this.

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  124. Christian Sciberras says:

    They should put “burning in an armored van” on that chart as well.

    I mean, that video is the most shocking thing after the fall of twin towers! Or not.

  125. pat says:

    i’m sorry, i dont understand the question. are you suggesting that the campus police were being civily disobedient?

  126. Alan says:

    No, I’m just curious as to why one group has to be held accountable for their actions and the other gets away free.

  127. pat says:


    from what i understand, the protesters were technically breaking the campus rules and the campus police were enforcing them as they saw fit.
    as i have stated here several times, it is beyond me why they deemed it nessacary but once they did, i believe they were following procedure.
    i have also stated i believe that the procedure is flawed and is the real issue at hand


  128. Idea says:

    I think it’s pretty easy. Simply get someone’s child to stand right in front of the protestors. (By someone’s child, I mean someone like Obama, Clinton, Bill Gates, Trump, or any other wealthy/powerful individual).
    And make sure to let the officers know that person’s idenity. Let’s just sit back and watch whether or not will the officers give the same order and/or follow the same orders or not.

    These kids were hosed down by a potentially lethal chemical WEAPON, a few times no less, by a most nonchalant cop who was offered coffee and food by the same students just moments ago. He could have been mistaken for simply watering plants in his garden, from his expression. Simply because they are thought to be nobodies, just a bunch of poor students with too much passion and time. Pesky kids who do not want to follow the rules and just roll over.
    Put someone important in there and we can only wonder what will happen.

  129. ex-cop says:

    The Davis cops were way out of line.
    There is a Continuum of Force which is universally understood and must be adhered to.
    A cop who decides to jump the continuum to administer extra-judicial punishment must answer for it, and I don’t mean a transfer to Staten Island.

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  132. pat says:

    ex cop, could you tell us what the procedure for removing non violent protesters was at your department?

  133. ex-cop says:

    We were fortunate enough to never be faced with that problem, but if you Google “compliance holds” you will find alternatives to clubs and sprays. Of course, “pain compliance” can be abused, like anything else. The solution to official abuse of force is Zero Tolerance.

  134. pat says:

    i’m gald you were never put in that stuation. what was the policy if you were?

  135. Current Cop says:

    Current use of force policies are generally the same throughout the nation due to accreditation of police departments and national police organizations. The use of pepper spray is prefered to using physical force on a person. The pepperspray can cause injury and policies require that a person who has been sprayed be observed and if needed treated medically. Physical force WILL cause injury. I did not see any officers physically force a persons mouth open and spray it down their throat. This would of course never be an approved or acceptable use of pepperspray but I am unsure as to where this came from. It appeared to me that the people being sprayed were well aware they were about to be sprayed and “hunkered down” as they were sprayed.
    The right ot assemble is an intregal part of the constitution but like every other aspect of the constitution it has been defined by court cases for the last two hundred plus years. My right to assemble does not give me a right to trespass on another person property, generally “person” also applies to institutions and businesses. I am coming from another state so can’t say what the state law specifically is for California.
    I have been sprayed with pepperspray multiple times and am well aware of the incapacitating aspect of the spray, that is the reason it is used.
    Note that the use of pepperspray in war is prohibited as it is a chemical agent. All chemical agents are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. If a psycological unit would like to blanket an area with perfume smelling like roses it would be prohibited. There would be no danger from the perfume beside making the enemy sodiers smell “better” but it would be in violoation the same as pepperspray.
    I have seen the video but only of the officer spraying the subjects. The video I saw did not show any actions prior, warning to disperse, or as a commenter stated earlier a letter stating that arrests would be made. I do know from firsthand experience that it is nearly impossible to move or arrest a person who is passively resisting. Just pulling in your arms or hunching over and refusing to move is very affective at stopping an arrest. There are three options that could be used in a situation like this, pepperspray, taser, or physical force. Using a taser or physical force would cause injury 100% of the time. As the ex cop stated above physical controls can be used, these consist of putting pressure on a nerve ending or group of nerves causing pain. There is a greator chance of causing injury doing this. Pepperspray is the “go to” tactic as the possibility of injury is dramatically less that the other options.
    Police officers are responsible for enforcing the laws of their jurisdiction. If the people who live in that area believe that what occurred is wrong they need to petition and change the laws to what they believe is right. The officer is not legally able to decide for himself what laws he uphelds and which laws he does not. If he is ordered to enforce the law he is required to do so to the utmost of his ability.

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  137. MC says:

    Then you didn’t watch any of the videos, or you are willfully lying about it. The spraying was excessive and shouldn’t have been done, but you’re doing a disservice by denying that they were not warned ahead of time.

  138. *the* Bob says:

    “kids who do not want to follow the rules”

    Exactly! At least someone can admit that the kids were not following the rules. Thank you.

  139. *the* Bob says:

    So.. when a group of people are protesting various things involving money (corporate greed, high tuition, government waste) the best course of action is to expend a lot of police (aka public) resources to arrest, transport, book and release the protesters? o_O

    I think the cops did us all a favor by just dispersing them in a very cost effective manner. I think the video would have been much more entertaining if they had brought in the water canons instead, though. Now that would be some funny footage.

  140. pat says:

    Thank you for this eloquently put and absolutely right perspective.

    What saddens me is that the protesters have allowed this to become all about pepper spray, nobody has mentioned what they were protesting. Tremendous waste of effort.

  141. Jim says:

    What really bothers me about the whole mess is the use of Force as punishment. When did officers become Judge, Jury and executioner?
    Have we really lost our entire Justice system? I am 62 and very sad to see where we have come from my youth. It seems we should have learned better how to control our civil servants by now.

  142. Mark Walker says:

    Dear UC Davis Student,
    Those dangerous large groups explicitly gave the law enforcement officers clear passage out of the area; “You are free to go!”
    There may have been enough tension it could have been cut with scissors, but that Davis protest was only dangerous for those attacked with riot control dispersants.

  143. Mark Walker says:

    Well said Karen. Those who have not had cause to prepare these chilies have no experience with which to judge the likely impact of being on the receiving end of this chemical weapon, that is unless they’ve been on the receiving end.

  144. Mark Walker says:

    In all fairness Charles J. Mueller, Laurel already pointed out that fact with her complete quotation from Wikipedia.

    The citation that could be added is:

    “Riot control agents
    Riot control agents (RCAs) such as CS were the topic of long and heated debates during the CWC negotiations. At issue were their inclusion in the treaty and the restrictions that would be imposed upon their use. In the end, a compromise was reached under which States Parties are to declare to the OPCW the RCAs they possess for law enforcement purposes. Though use is allowed for these purposes, it is prohibited as a method of warfare. Furthermore, if a State Party considers that an RCA has been used against it as a method of warfare, it has the right to request assistance from the OPCW. Such a request will trigger an investigation of alleged use (IAU) by the Organisation, after which a decision will be made by the Executive Council regarding the provision of further assistance.”

  145. Mark Walker says:

    So it’s OK to cheat in class when the kid sitting next to you is cheating?
    The US record is miserable on the Geneva Convention and Police excessive use of force compared to many other, not necessarily Western, countries.
    Our 43rd President flaunted our non-adherence to the GC.
    There is no equivalence here…

  146. Mark Walker says:

    So harmless that Materials Data Safety Sheets (MDSS) are required in any US workplace where the riot control weapons are stored?

  147. Mark Walker says:

    Have you seen video of clearing sit-ins in the ’60s? You’ll see lots of passive protesters being carried off 3 or 4 cops to the protester, one protester at a time.
    Protesters locking arms somewhat more work, and in the ’60s may have leverage applied by several officers.
    It’s been done before without Capsassin chemical agents, tazers, rubber bullets, or real bullets.
    This is not a new problem and doesn’t need new technology applied.

  148. Mark Walker says:

    And battery is battery…

  149. Mark Walker says:

    Just not when the Cop is spraying you…

    Early versions of these products had to be modified because the spray pattern was to direct. The active ingredients could penetrate the tissue of the eyeball.

    The pattern of the spray nozzle was modified to reduce this possibility. The products were labeled non-lethal then, and that was still true then for the most part as it is now.

    It should also be noted, repeated eye contact with these OC resin sprays is harmful to the cornea.

  150. Mark Walker says:

    We already have plenty of that water canon footage from the Civil Rights era. I do wonder though, why is that method now out of favor? I suspect significant and serious injuries, even death, is possible from the falls water canons tend to cause.
    You are welcome to stand down-range of an operating water canon *the* Bob.

  151. Mark Walker says:

    They are welcome to have some on their lunch. I’d even sign up to watch the segment.

  152. Mark Walker says:

    As was pointed out above, the spray contains many other compounds (the propellant for one) you are unlikely to find favorable to have on/in your body.

  153. Mark Walker says:

    If you are satisfied with the evolution of the rules in this nation, then you are already lost to us brother.

    And by the way, selecting that not so well worded quote as if it proves your point is a pretty lame tactic. You couldn’t tell it was a not-so-favorable description of the spraying cop’s, and many others’, mindset?

  154. Mark Walker says:

    It was an OccupyWallStreet related protest. I would think that a pretty clear situation by now. Check out for starters: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/nov/25/shocking-truth-about-crackdown-occupy?INTCMP=SRCH

    When people have questions about what was going on don’t they do even a little research?


  155. Mark Walker says:

    We’re just finishing the job bin Laden started. This country is consuming itself from the inside with the totalitarian mindset that goes with mob thinking.

    Pretty pathetic actually. What would those early founding Americans have thought of this spectacle?

  156. pat says:

    i don’t think the spraying is “punishment”. It is an attempt to force compliance used by many police departments, the officers are trained that in many situations it is the safest method.
    As imperfect as it is, I feel our justice system is more protective of our civil rights than ever before, certainly we have moved forward, and especially so in your lifetime.
    i feel the “civil servants” are very much under control. they are controlled by policies and mandates that many think should be changed or at the very least explained.

  157. pat says:

    i agree with part of your post. i feel the political powers in charge would hesitate to give certain orders in fear of political backlash. and i feel that is a major flaw with our society.
    however i also believe police officers would follow their orders, as far as they are concerned, pepper spray is a non-lethal weapon that is often the safest method to accomplish their goal.
    nonchalant is usually the preffered demeanor of a police officer.

  158. Danny says:

    That´s exactly the core of the problem. Who´s gonna check those policies and mandates you are talking about? The very moment someone questions them, they are being pepper sprayed in the eyes. They are what brought us to this situation in the first place. Of course no justice system is ever perfect and it´s a constant struggle to balance the different forces (i.e. democratic, progressive will to change vs. economical and political power striving to keep their privileges and/or control) and I wouldn´t expect them to act some other way, but when the very basic right to protest is being suppressed by such violent methods, then it´s time to raise some serious questions.

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  161. pat says:


    i actually agree with much of what you say. the main point i have been trying to make here is that the individual officers are not the problem, and by focussing enegy on them, most of the people participating in this blog (including myself at times) are distracted from the real issue. of course, that is just fine with the powers that be. they will eventualy make some change to policies concerning pepper spray (like reverting to pressure point tactics) and the protesters will feel they have won something, and little else will change; unless people unite and stay on topic.

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  164. pat says:

    Mark Walker,
    Who had such questions?

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  168. ex-cop says:

    “Using a taser or physical force would cause injury 100% of the time”.
    Overstating your case there a bit, LEO.

  169. Richard says:

    MS Laura, your comment starts out sane, but completely jumps the tracks at the end. “Large groups of people are dangerous, especially those who feel they have nothing to lose.” Well, the video is pretty clear. The victims were seated and of no danger to anyone. The “officer” clearly turned his back to the legally-seated citizens – and did so with theatrics showing that he was getting off on the thought of brutalizing innocent kids. The video proves without doubt that he felt they were of no danger and that he is a sadist who LOVED the idea of torturing them. Yes, this is a clear case of assault with a deadly weapon, and the “officer” should have been sent directly to jail, and stood trial for perhaps ten counts of assault and torture. The nonchalant way he brutally assaulted those peaceful kids shows him to be the type of monster we need to lock up for a long time.

  170. Appy says:

    Its one of our Universal Human Rights as well. Human Right # 20: The Right to Public Assembly- We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.

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