SWAT Teams, Stun Guns, and Pepper Spray

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I have a new piece at Huffington Post looking at how and why government and police officials are increasingly willing to use more force, more often.

Or put another way, why we let them get away with it.


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85 Responses to “SWAT Teams, Stun Guns, and Pepper Spray”

  1. #1 |  dunphy | 

    “excessive complaints have been made against cops. Even raw figures are considered private personnel-related information. ”

    mere complaints of excessive force aren’t data on UOF. they are CLAIMS. many are specious. obviously

    again, you are claiming POLICE UOF’s are trending up, etc.

    provide DATA

    not data on alleged misconduct, data on ACTUAL UOF’s.

    you fail to do so, then make excuses that the DOJ doesn’t have reliable enough data.

    iow, you doth protest too much.

    provide some data on police UOF’s.

    data on COMPLAINTS are not robust, even if you did present them, since they don’t distinguish between false and bona fide complaints

    data on UOF in general, just shows how much force is used, how often, without even distinguising between justified and unjustified.

    you haven’t provided any evidence that the latter has gone up WHICH IS YOUR OFT REPEATED CLAIM

  2. #2 |  Radley Balko | 

    dunphy:

    Do you not think the increased use of SWAT teams is an increased use of force? If a police department uses a SWAT team in a situation where they’d have sent two uniformed cops to knock and serve the warrant 20 years ago, do you think that represents an increased use of force?

    How about using Tasers for noncompliance?

  3. #3 |  dunphy | 

    “So, having watched the extended UC Davis video, it seems to me that the commenters who said things like “Why didn’t the police just let people walk around the sidewalk blockers?” and “Why didn’t the police try to TALK to them like human beings?” should have their questions answered by it.”

    if you would watch the video, please point out where the cops were supposed to have walked AROUND the blockers. i see no “hole”. i see them surrounding the cops and numerous verbal claims being made that they WILL NOT let the cops leave unless the cops release prisoners they have with them (note cops have a duty to the arrestees to protect them and transport them for processing)

    you can also see the cops approach the people sitting on the path NUMEROUS TIMES and issue them warnings that they will be met with force if they do not get out of the way

    ample warning, and ample justification considering the actions against police (unlawful restraint/imprisonment) AND ample warning of consequences

  4. #4 |  dunphy | 

    “Do you not think the increased use of SWAT teams is an increased use of force? If a police department uses a SWAT team in a situation where they’d have sent two uniformed cops to knock and serve the warrant 20 years ago, do you think that represents an increased use of force?

    How about using Tasers for noncompliance?”

    i am asking you to be accurate. nobody denies cops use SWAT more now than in the past.

    you make claims about USE OF FORCE, which most people, and by most definitions means “physical force” as used by DOJ and most police agencies.

    again, i 100% agree cops use SWAT more than they used to .

    i 100% disagree with that policy.

    i have personally fought overuse of SWAT in my agency, and seen the policy CHANGED

    however, you say cops are “ncreasingly willing to use more force, more often”

    if you want to qualify that to mean “SWAT”. i agree.

    if you are talking about baton strikes, tasers, pepper spray, impact strikes, soft empty hand controls (wristie twisties), then provide data

    ime, (note: EXPERIENCE, i am not claiming national trend) cops are using force LESS not more

    and that’s a good thing, assuming that they are using it enough. i have 3 people on my squad out on serious injury leave because they got seriously injured by suspects in making arrests. maybe if they used more force, or a taser, they wouldn’t have gotten so seriously injured..

    however, again… i am not denying SWAT use has gone up.

    i am talking about PHYSICAL FORCE, what the DOJ and most people think of when you talk about police using force

  5. #5 |  dunphy | 

    oh, also i would claim police use of tasers for noncompliance HAS gone down. when tasers first came out, they were GROSSLY overused. i complained about this a lot

    ex post recent court decisions, reassessments of taser in UOF policy, etc. i certainly don’t think tasers are being used MORE for noncompliance. i would argue less. but i don’t have DATA either way

    tasers should NOT be used for mere passive resistance. even for active resistance, they can be problematic

    case law, and dept policy should and imo more and more often DOES reflect that

  6. #6 |  Rob Lyman | 

    How about using Tasers for noncompliance?

    This is a tricky issue. Where compliance is mandatory (get out of your car, you’re under arrest, come with me, you’re trespassing, etc.), the police have the right to use force to compel compliance. So they have the right to grab you and bodily shove you in the right direction, twist your arm, pull your hair, manipulate your joints, etc. So the question is, is a Taser better or worse than those options? And more importantly, without knowing in advance what the suspect is going to do, how do you decide?

    If a Taser is only for solving fistfights or grappling, it’s useless–how are you going to get it out at punching/grappling distance? If it’s a substitute for lethal force, it’s useless. Go lethal if that’s what’s required. So when, exactly, should a Taser be deployed?

  7. #7 |  Danny | 

    Oh, no.

    Cross-infection from Reason dot com.

    We’ve been Dunphy-ized!

    Sevo, Epi and Sugar Free can’t be far behind.

  8. #8 |  Les | 

    dunphy, I guess we don’t live in the same universe. If a cop gives a legal order to, “Move or you’ll be arrested,” it’s reasonable to expect you’ll be arrested if you don’t move. If a cop says, “Move or we’ll assault you,” well, that’s just bad police work. I know it’s standard procedure and accepted policy all over the U.S., but it’s still bad police work.

    If those cops at UC Davis actually felt threatened by those protesters, then they shouldn’t be cops. Any cop that thinks violence was the only way to deal with that non-violent situation shouldn’t be a cop.

    We’ll have to agree that we’re living in different universes.

  9. #9 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Any cop that thinks violence was the only way to deal with that non-violent situation shouldn’t be a cop.

    Les, if you watch the extended video, you’ll see that the cops had a group of arrestees they were trying to transport out. They were surrounded by protesters who proposed letting the cops leave if they released the arrestees. That is not a “peaceful protest” sort of action; it’s sort of non-violent, but only in the sense that somebody sitting on my doorstep saying I can leave if I pay him is “non-violent.” Obstructing law enforcement is a crime, and doing so in a large group is dangerous for everyone.

    And while I agree that the ideal solution is to simply arrest the protesters, the sheer number of them was too high. It was no longer an arrest situation, but a crowd control situation, which meant that crowd control tactics were used.

    It’s ugly, and when I first saw it I thought it was wrong, but the extended video shows a very different situation than I had imagined before.

  10. #10 |  Mike T | 

    #42,

    (and I don’t think the experience changed many militant pro-lifers’ minds about the wisdom of unleashing the government on unwilling pregnant women, either)

    That’s because we pro-lifers see the matter as a form of legalized murder. It’s just that simple. You think abortion is just a personal surgical choice. We think it is premeditated murder that the state has formally legalized.

    Believe it or not, there are a number of libertarians who share the same view in no small part because they realized that the mother’s consent to the pregnancy has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the child has a right to live. If you go that route, you are laying the first concrete legal foundation of a private right to alter or abolish human life at a whim. If you ever cite a slippery slope, that should scare the heck out of you as it is one of the worst possible slippery slopes.

    Ironically, when calling abortion a form of illicit homicide (if not outright murder) was the mainstream opinion, society also tended to take a dim view on the way cops now behave. It’s not a far leap from a society that regards an unborn child as “just a thing” to one that sees the value of human life as a fairly situational thing subject to renegotiation when the state feels it is necessary “for the greater good” which is precisely what the legal system and anti-terrorism hawks have done for the last 40 years.

  11. #11 |  Mike T | 

    (and I don’t think the experience changed many militant pro-lifers’ minds about the wisdom of unleashing the government on unwilling pregnant women, either)

    Peter Singer is a famous “bioethicist” who supports the “right” to use euthanasia on newborns with severe disabilities. Suppose the state agreed with him and allowed women to simply execute their handicapped infant. That’s no without precedent as it was a legal right in Western pre-Christian culture for centuries.

    Would the unwillingness of the mother even matter in determining whether or not the state was right or wrong? I doubt any libertarian would agree with that because a libertarian who actually believes in an individual right to live would be horrified at the thought of giving a private prerogative to terminate the life of another.

    Pregnancy is problematic for many libertarians because there is a conflict between the woman’s autonomy with her body and the basic fact of biology that the organism growing inside her is a new human being. There is no way to settle this other than to either deny her autonomy or to dehumanize the biologically distinct life in her womb.

  12. #12 |  Jay | 

    however, you say cops are “increasingly willing to use more force, more often”

    if you want to qualify that to mean “SWAT”. i agree.

    if you are talking about baton strikes, tasers, pepper spray, impact strikes, soft empty hand controls (wristie twisties), then provide data

    ime, (note: EXPERIENCE, i am not claiming national trend) cops are using force LESS not more.

    How do you NOT qualify breaking someone’s door in, shoving guns in their face, throwing them to the ground, and shooting their pets as “a use of force”?

    and that’s a good thing, assuming that they are using it enough. i have 3 people on my squad out on serious injury leave because they got seriously injured by suspects in making arrests. maybe if they used more force, or a taser, they wouldn’t have gotten so seriously injured.

    This may be true, and I don’t think anyone is claiming they shouldn’t use force when they MUST. But if they make use of force the default, they will necessarily use it against people for whom it is not warranted. And even arrestees have the presumption of innocence (since you like numbers, can you perhaps provide some on how many people are arrested, but are then released without being charged or indicted?).

    How many innocent people do you think it is acceptable to hurt and/or terrorize to avoid harm to your officers?

  13. #13 |  Danny | 

    “You think abortion is just a personal surgical choice.”

    ****************

    Keep your straw men in your corn fields, farmboy.

    Abortion is destructive of ‘life’ at some level. No one would be arguing that abortion was a prerogative if women laid eggs in nests like chickens. But we are animals that undergo “live birth”. Thus, the question is that of empowering the state against the unwilling pregnant woman.

    Using the “murder” label does not resolve the debate in my mind. I never signed onto stopping all actions that could philosophically be deemed “homicide”. From what I’ve seen on this website and elsewhere, cops can’t even be trusted to honestly administer DUI breathalyzer tests. What happens when we unleash these cro-magnons on women who have suffered “suspicious” miscarriages?

    No way. Not on my dime. Not with this type of government. If abortion is “murder,” then it is a type of murder we are better off tolerating.

  14. #14 |  dunphy | 

    “dunphy, I guess we don’t live in the same universe. If a cop gives a legal order to, “Move or you’ll be arrested,” it’s reasonable to expect you’ll be arrested if you don’t move. If a cop says, “Move or we’ll assault you,””

    using the term “assault” begs a question. it was NOT assault, because an assault is an UNLAWFUL “touching” (so to speak. varies state to state).

    these people had unlawfully restrained the cops within a cordon of protesters, and given spoken threats that they would only release the cops, if the cops released the prisoners.

    this is not a minor crime, and it is certainly not protest. it aint MLK, it aint Gandhi, it’s quite serious.

    the cops then gave ample warning to the criminals (because that’s what they were) that if they didn’t open up the walkway, so they could escort their arrestees through the cordon, they would be met with force. it’s not even a CLOSE question as to justification.

    most notable is that the pepper spray, which is the LOWEST level of force that could have achieved their goals (clear the walkway while the group of cops were able to maintain control of their arrestees, and protect same) worked… perfectly. of course, we don’t use results analysis, we use process analysis, but on BOTH counts, it was a great success. nobody got hurt, the crowd then INVITED them to leave (lol) after of course whining like little CHILDREN and calling themselves “children” in regards to their fear of being pepper sprayed. and outing their true nature.

    i applaud the UC Davis cops where i AT FIRST condemned them, based on the previous video. which looked CLEARLY unjustified.

  15. #15 |  dunphy | 

    “But if they make use of force the default, they will necessarily use it against people for whom it is not warranted. And even arrestees have the presumption of innocence (since you like numbers, can you perhaps provide some on how many people are arrested, but are then released without being charged or indicted?).”

    first of all, being released without charges and/or found NOT GUILTY doesn’t mean you are innocent. innocence is a presumption within the court system. prosecutors don’t charge because there is a lack of evidence sufficient for them to have a likelihood of gaining a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

    i am the FIRST to admit LOTS of innocents get arrested – and this happens FAR more often in the war on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE than the WOD. that’s because arrests are mandated in many situations. the average INNOCENT is far more likely to get ensnared in the WODV than the WOD.

    of course, i don’t believe in the WOD, but it’s much more likely the person being arrested pursuant to same DID the crime, than in the case of a domestic violence arrest.

    regardless, the point is that USING FORCE IS NOT THE DEFAULT

    it is in fact a very small %age of arrests, (let alone contacts) as statistics i have cited here and elsewhere clearly show, where ANY force is used (apart from actual handcuffing) and GIVEN UOF’s the vast majority are low level e.g. pepper spray, wristie-twisties, etc. and in those cases where force IS used, AND injuries are sustained, the vast majority of the injuries are minor as well

    those aren’t opinions. those are facts. clearly supported by a mountain of stats, and in my case – experience.

    one of the things that shocked me when i started my career was how INfrequently cops use any sort of force, and how good (most) of them are at “verbal judo” deescalation, etc.

    generally speaking it is much more difficult to deescalate a MOB, than an individual

  16. #16 |  dunphy | 

    as for tasers, … ime (and i think the stats will support this over time, as they lag…) when tasers first came out and got popular, they were GROSSLY overused.

    heck, just a few years ago, not too long after my agency got them, i would hear VERY frequently on the radio “radio, we have a taser deployment. can we get a sgt. to the scene?”

    i hear it very very rarely now. that’s anecdotal, but the difference is staggering.

    several reasons why.

    1) court decisions, such as the recent 9th circuit decision (which imo was an EXCELLENT DECISION
    2) dept’s REWRITING their UOF policies such that tasers are not justified in certain circ’s where they usually were
    3) increasing the paperwork required when a taser is deployed.. lol. it’s true that if you want cops to do something less, make them write paperwork
    4) the “new toy” factor, as childish as that sounds, exists, and that has subsided

    i’ve carried one over 8 yrs and never had to decide to pull the trigger, but i have gotten voluntary compliance from subjects who, having been tased before, saw the taser and the little red dot on their chest and said “fuck it”. that’s a wonderfully effective tool – compliance gained. nobody hurt.

    and those don’t usually go into the stats – compliance gained WITHOUT a fight BECAUSE of the taser

    one of my coworkers tased a 65 yr old guy who kicked at one of them a few years ago. i was there. the guy was old, and it was a weak-ass kick.

    was it LEGALLY justified? yes. would *i* have done it? hell no!

    i suggest that willingness to tase has subsided substantially in the last couple of years. it is now, almost always, being deployed properly, with proper restraint

    in regards to noncompliance, GENERALLY speaking, for a nonviolent offense , as per the 9th, taser use is not justified for mere noncompliance or even most cases of passive AND active resistance.

  17. #17 |  JOR | 

    “There is no way to settle this other than to either deny her autonomy or to dehumanize the biologically distinct life in her womb.”

    There is, sort of. You can just say he or she is an uninvited intruder on the woman’s property (in this case, her body) that she has a right to eject in the manner safest and most convenient for her, with no (or minimal) concern for the intruder’s safety. I still don’t know if I buy that argument myself, or that even if I did if it would justify all abortion practices, but it is an argument that upholds the woman’s autonomy without dehumanizing the fetus, at least no moreso than any other factual description of an uninvited intruder. I agree that it’s (usually) a cruel and callous thing to do, even if it is fully justified.

  18. #18 |  JOR | 

    #42, It’s funny you mention that. It’s part of what lead to my developing political consciousness turning out libertarian rather than conservative (like that of my parents). The team red roots were never fully able to dig through the cognitive dissonance of seeing “the right” fully invert (from my limited historical perspective at the time) in its attitude toward police and military abuses on 9/11. And of course I didn’t go clinging to team blue, since I’d already seen their true colors.

  19. #19 |  Mike T | 

    I still don’t know if I buy that argument myself, or that even if I did if it would justify all abortion practices, but it is an argument that upholds the woman’s autonomy without dehumanizing the fetus, at least no moreso than any other factual description of an uninvited intruder.

    I don’t think biology would support that, and people being the idiots that most people are, would naturally evolve that into a direction that would involve other uncivilized behaviors like a “right to abandon” a child that is now an inconvenience. A key part of the reason why Ron Paul’s brand of libertarianism meets such enthusiastic support among non-libertarians (I know a lot of average joe conservatives and liberals who like him a lot) is that his brand of libertarianism is practical in areas like this. AFAIK, he’s pro-life and admits that biology trumps property rights (as property rights exist to serve human nature, which is founded in our biology).

    I tend to lean more conservative these days, but I say to other conservatives:

    1. I am anti-police militarization because I am pro-life.
    2. I am anti-torture because I am pro-life.
    3. I am anti-abortion because I am pro-life.

    Being pro-life means more than just supporting an end to abortion. It means supporting an entire legal regime that respects the right to live of all human beings in all of their variations from cradle to grave.

  20. #20 |  Mike T | 

    (4. I am generally anti-war because I am pro-life)

  21. #21 |  Rob Lyman | 

    You can just say he or she is an uninvited intruder on the woman’s property

    The basic facts of reproduction being generally pretty well known, I’m fond of saying this: You invite the penis in, you invite the fetus in.

    (Aside on property rights: In Oregon, it is actually possible for your friend crashing on your couch “for a couple of days” or your children, after turning 18, to be legally considered renters, with all the tenant rights that implies, including proper notice and the requirement of court involvement before you change the locks)

  22. #22 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Although it occurs to me that when my wife checked into the maternity ward for our third child, the nurse asked a bunch of health questions which included “Are you sexually active?” and “Do you suffer from infertility?” So perhaps reproductive biology is not as well known as I normally think.

  23. #23 |  JOR | 

    “I don’t think biology would support that . . . ”

    Biology really has nothing to do with it, unless you’re saying that biology tells us that a woman’s body is not her property (perhaps you think it is the man’s, or the state’s, or perhaps it belongs to her offspring, though the latter would be a very novel theory). Note the argument in question says nothing one way or another about a fetus’s personhood; you can give an argument for evicting a trespasser without arguing that the trespasser isn’t human.

    If property rights (and ethics in general) derived from human nature then, given that all action is in accord with nature, all human actions would be ethical and property rights-respecting by definition. But this is nonsense. There might be a duty to care for vulnerable or weak human beings (like children, and arguably infants/fetuses), but it doesn’t derive from biology, as a very brief empirical investigation will no doubt indicate: “Biology” shows us that women can and do terminate their pregnancies when it is convenient* to do so, and that, in general, the weak and vulnerable among our species are often ignored, exploited, abused, or outright cannibalized (figuratively or literally).

    *The woman’s moral beliefs about abortion and expected social consequences, of course, factor into her cost-benefit analysis.

  24. #24 |  JOR | 

    “The basic facts of reproduction being generally pretty well known, I’m fond of saying this: You invite the penis in, you invite the fetus in.”

    Like most appeals to responsibility, this manages to be both a non sequitur and a red herring, and in any case doesn’t apply to pregnancies caused by rape.

  25. #25 |  Rob Lyman | 

    If you’re going to characterize the fetus as “uninvited,” then you need to explain what “uninvited” means. Deliberately engaging in acts well known to cause the fetus to appear tends to show that the fetus is not, in fact, uninvited. Unwanted, perhaps, but not uninvited.

    But no, it doesn’t apply to rape.

  26. #26 |  Mac M | 

    Excellent story Mr. Balko.

    Here is an interesting juxtaposition: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15735029

    Can you imagine an unarmed police response to suspected terrorists in the United States?

    Please keep up the great work.

  27. #27 |  Jay | 

    first of all, being released without charges and/or found NOT GUILTY doesn’t mean you are innocent. innocence is a presumption within the court system. prosecutors don’t charge because there is a lack of evidence sufficient for them to have a likelihood of gaining a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

    As I understand it, one of the rights citizens have in this country is the right be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. As far as I am concerned, you do not have any right, nor does anyone, to say “well, just ’cause they got off doesn’t mean they’re not guilty”. In the eyes of the law, that is EXACTLY what it means. That is what it has to mean, unless people are going to be allowed to try cases in their own minds and determine guilty or innocence themselves, which I don’t believe they should do.

    I am the FIRST to admit LOTS of innocents get arrested – and this happens FAR more often in the war on DOMESTIC VIOLENCE than the WOD. that’s because arrests are mandated in many situations. the average INNOCENT is far more likely to get ensnared in the WODV than the WOD.

    I was not speaking about WOD vs. domestic violence…I was speaking of police work in general. That said, I believe it is normal to send standard uniformed officers to handle domestic violence, not a SWAT team with flashbangs and submachine guns, so I think the likelihood of an innocent person being subject to violence is much greater in WOD cases.

    of course, i don’t believe in the WOD, but it’s much more likely the person being arrested pursuant to same DID the crime, than in the case of a domestic violence arrest.

    If you mean that they technically broke a law, you’re probably correct. The problem is that:
    a.) does that law even need to be enforced
    b.) even if it does, is having your home broken into, your property damaged, your dogs killed, your family terrorized, and yourself subject to possible physical injury (from being handcuffed, from flashbangs or accidental shootings, etc) WITHOUT TRIAL a fair and appropriate punishment?

    regardless, the point is that USING FORCE IS NOT THE DEFAULT

    Do you dispute that deploying a SWAT team to serve standard warrants on nonviolent offenders is a default practice in many law-enforcement agencies?

    Because in my eyes, ANY USE OF A SWAT TEAM IS A USE OF FORCE. When you use SWAT, there is often no attempt whatsoever to resolve the situation without violence. Violence, in the form of door-breaking, property damage, threats with guns, physical grappling, and killing of animals, IS PART OF THE STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE.

    those aren’t opinions. those are facts. clearly supported by a mountain of stats, and in my case – experience.

    Would you mind providing me some citation of these facts? Ideally from a nonbiased, non law-enforcement source?

    generally speaking it is much more difficult to deescalate a MOB, than an individual

    I agree with this…which is why I don’t understand why SWAT is used more often against individuals than mobs, with no attempt to de-escalate.
    Use of a SWAT team is an automatic escalation of force, unless the perpetrator is already engaged in violence or the threat thereof.

  28. #28 |  zendingo | 

    jay:

    you can count on a non-response from dunphy that addresses none of the points you raise; if you get any response at all…..

  29. #29 |  Dunphy | 

    Spare me, zandingo. My responses have actual stats and support vs. unsupported statements about alleged increased UFO by cops without supporting data hth

    Way to go. Attack the poster, not the ideas. Typiical of people who lack the latter

  30. #30 |  zendingo | 

    Dunphy,
    what stats? the decade old use force link? or the gothamist link that doesn’t mention anything about the use of mace, tazers or other physical assaults.

  31. #31 |  dunphy | 

    again, if you have a point, make it.

    balko has made an unsupported assertion. apparently, unsupported assertions are fine if they are in accord with the prejudices and your metanarrative.

    we probably agree that SWAT is used TOO often. but if the claim is that police UOF has been trending up, that’s fine, but support it with data.

    which has been presented where exactly?

  32. #32 |  Jay | 

    we probably agree that SWAT is used TOO often. but if the claim is that police UOF has been trending up, that’s fine, but support it with data.

    which has been presented where exactly?

    Why don’t you answer the point I’ve now raised TWICE, and which was clear in Balko’s original piece: the evidence for UOF going up is crystal clear if you understand that USE OF SWAT IS USE OF FORCE. Definitionally.

    Either admit that, in which case the enormous rise in the use of SWAT teams clearly proves the increase in UOF, or deny it clearly and unequivocably.

    Either state that you’re wrong, or state that you honestly believe that one should not classify breaking someone’s property, threatening them with automatic weapons, killing their pets, setting off explosive devices in their home, and laying hands on them to force them facedown on the ground as “a use of force”.

    And if you honestly believe that, you live on a different planet than most people. Because if I did those things to innocent people, I would be charged with a wide variety of crimes.

  33. #33 |  Jay | 

    A bit of followup: I just watched the extended UC Davis video, including the “justification” for the police’s actions. I still maintain that what the police did was egregious and unnecessary. Specifics:

    –The commentator claimed that “Telling police you will let them leave if they release people they have arrested is ‘a threatening action’.” In what way? Were the police in any danger? Were they threatened with any violence or repercussion if they refused to comply with the crowd’s demands? They were ‘restrained’ by the crowd for less than 20 minutes. If they had waited a few hours without releasing their arrestees, do you think anything at all would have happened to them?

    How can you have a threat without a claimed consequence?

    –I watched as police approached from OUTSIDE the student cordon, including bringing a police car up to within a few yards. At this point, there were fewer than a dozen students actually blocking the path. Is there any reason the police could not have simply arrested each of those students, one at a time, clearing the path while forming their own wall to keep the path clear? In order to block them again, the students would then have had to move from passive resistance to ACTIVE resistance, at which point the police would be justified in use of force.

    –The commentator said, “This could have been avoided had the protesters not attempted to trap the police and keep them from leaving.”

    This is true…but that is not the ONLY way it could have been avoided. Why is the onus only on citizens to prevent the use of unnecessary force? Police saying “comply if you don’t want me to pepper spray you” is a lot like a man telling his abused wife “don’t make me hit you”.

    Here is a post by a guy who I feel made some valid points about the police use of pepper spray. Even better was comment #6 (by someone calling themself Local Yokel), who points out what I believe would have been a much better and more justifiable way to handle the ousting of campers, if they felt it was really necessary.

    http://www.smilepolitely.com/culture/an_achingly_rational_approach_to_the_uc_davis_pepper_spray_incident/

  34. #34 |  Mike T | 

    If property rights (and ethics in general) derived from human nature then, given that all action is in accord with nature, all human actions would be ethical and property rights-respecting by definition.

    They’re not derived entirely from human nature, but then I also said specifically that property rights were derived. You were the one who said “ethics in general.” I didn’t carry they argument that far. Part of moral philosophy is to ensure the functioning of a thing according to its nature and purpose. Property rights reflect fundamental aspects of the make up of the human psyche an animal.

    That aside, even if a woman has ownership of her body, it doesn’t logically follow that she can use deadly force against an unwanted guest. Abortion is a nuanced issue which cannot be succinctly summed up in a pithy one liner. There are various aspects where it does come down to a difference in world views (such as whether rape victims can claim some right to abort). However, part of the problem with abortion is that most abortions are caused by sexual acts a woman wanted. The baby was created by her voluntary actions. Libertarian thought by necessity must way her responsibility in that scenario against whatever property rights she has in her body otherwise it would be a sort of resurrection of Pater Familias on the maternal side of things.

    We should probably stop this lest we threadjack things too far.

  35. #35 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Police saying “comply if you don’t want me to pepper spray you” is a lot like a man telling his abused wife “don’t make me hit you”.

    If the abused wife is for some weird reason standing in the doorway trying to prevent him from leaving his home, he has the right to hit her.

    I agree that the police should try to limit their use of force, and I didn’t like the early pepper spray video because, without the context of the surrounded police transporting arrestees, it seemed grossly disproportionate. But I disagree that it has to be “the absolute minimum possible force.” Citizens do NOT have the right to obstruct or resist lawful police action, and there is no reason for those citizens to expect to be free from force when they decide to do so.

    Let’s take this out of the cop context and try it on a citizen: if you and your buddies surround me and my family and tell me we can leave if my wife consents to sex with you (something that you certainly have the right to request, and she certainly has the right to do, and therefore is “more” lawful than the demand that arrestees be released), you’re not going to be free from use of force, and what’s more, no sane Agitator commenter would object that you were just “passively” preventing us from leaving and not “actively” using force. If you wind up getting shot, no sane DA is going to charge that. Why shouldn’t cops have the right to use a lower level of force when similarly unlawfully detained in the performance of their legitimate duties?

    There were alternatives, I agree. But this was a reasonable use of force under the circumstances, even if it wasn’t the minimum theoretically possible force.