Who Do You Believe? NYPD? Or Video Evidence Concerning Cop Pepper Spraying Women?
from the why videotaping police is important dept
Before I get into the details of this post, I will say that I don’t quite get the purpose of the whole “Occupy Wall Street” protests. I mean, I guess that they’re supposed to be some sort of American version of the Arab Spring protests or the riots in London, but, honestly — like many of these things in the US — they strike me as people protesting for the sake of protesting. I just don’t quite see the point. The folks in the Middle East had real problems with their government. Protesting against a “financial system”? What does that do?
That said, since we’ve been writing so much about law enforcement and videotaping their actions, one story coming out of the ongoing protests is worth looking at in more detail. On Saturday, there were a bunch of arrests, but the story getting a lot of attention was the decision by one officer (according to this blog, his badge says “Bologna”) to walk up to a group of protesting women and spray their eyes, point blank, with pepper spray. You can see the slow motion video, which highlights the officer’s actions:
From that video, it seems pretty clear that the guy just walks up to a group of the protesters, sprays them, and walks away. So here’s where it gets more interesting. The NY Police Department have insisted to the NY Times that the pepper spraying was appropriate, even as they admit they only use pepper spray in extraordinary circumstances:
The Police Department?s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said the police had used the pepper spray ?appropriately.?
?Pepper spray was used once,? he added, ?after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier ? something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.?
Of course, accounts in that same article from one of the women who was sprayed (who wasn’t arrested) suggests a different story. While admitting there were some “rough” people there, she says that she and the folks around her had done nothing to cause the police to single them out with pepper spray. Furthermore, the folks at USLaw.com have more information including an additional video taken by one of the pepper-sprayed women. While right as the pepper spraying happens the camera is facing away from the action, and there was a lot of screaming and activity a bit earlier, it’s hard to see how anything anyone did in that area provoked the sudden spraying:
On the YouTube page for that video, the woman states that, for the most part, she supports the police force and believes they’re good and honorable people. Right before she was sprayed in the video, she appears to be asking police politely where they want her to go.
Yes, this was a chaotic situation with lots of people yelling and lots of movement. But the evidence from the two videos (and two of the women sprayed) certainly suggests that the police spokesperson is lying in saying that the use here was “appropriate.” I find this interesting not because of anything to do with the protest itself, but because of the way the ability to record and upload videos like this is really able to impact and change the debate. In the past, it would have been the police’s word against the protesters, and lots of people would have simply believed the police. But, as chaotic as the situation may be, law enforcement around the world is going to have to learn that they can’t hide behind false claims of acting appropriately if they didn’t, in fact, act appropriately.