Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cops Mace Student, Lefties Squeal

McClatchy High School in Sacramento, not known for its serene environment, was the scene recently of a "disturbance" in which officers at school used pepper spray to subdue a 16-year-old student.

I sent the linked article to a cop friend of mine, who told me that mace is an "intermediate weapon" (his term), on par with a tazer or baton but obviously below a firearm on the hierarchy of usable force.

Did the kid deserve it? Were the cops abusive? Can we ever know? And won't different people come to different conclusions, even given the exact same set of facts? I think we all know the answer to that last question.

One thing I like that the major Sacramento newspaper does is it allows comments on its online articles. As I write this post there are 99 comments (a suspicious number--I wonder if they cut them off at that point). Additionally, readers can hit a button saying if they found a particular comment useful; each comment has a note at the bottom saying "x of y readers found this comment useful". It's kind of a scorecard; make a stupid comment, you'll soon know.

Some of the comments discuss our loss of freedoms, the police state in which we live (yet we can still badmouth the police state, go figure), the poor darling children, etc. The ones most readers found useful were the ones along the lines of these:

"Kids need to learn to follow the directions of law enforcement officers."
"This is what happens when we let kids run amok, especially in schools."

In other words, they're what some would consider more conservative comments.

My friend the cop, though, liked this comment:

Why did they pepper spary this poor kid? Was there something wrong with their guns?

Oddly, only three of six found that comment helpful!

Here's another comment that sort of sums up, at least to me, a non-middle-class attitude towards the police:

Some of you really think a badge is a halo and a JOB makes you GOD, it's not a passport into heaven and you do not need to be worshiped AND I would NOT allow ANYONE to disrespect me, I don't have to "OBEY". I and that young man have a right NOT to be ASSAULTED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE TO PROTECT AND "SERVE" THE COMMUNITY.

No, honey, it's not a halo. It's a sign of authority, and you are required by law to obey. If you view that as disrespect, that's your problem, not the police officer's. If you feel that officers, in the course of their duties, act inappropriately towards you, you file a complaint. I did it once with a highway patrolman who spoke inappropriately to me at a courthouse once, and because I presented myself professionally, my complaint was considered and acted upon appropriately. Present yourself differently, and your complaint might very well be considered differently. You see, police officers are people, too, and they don't like disrespect any more than you do.

How bad must it be when officers feel it necessary to pepper spray a student? I'd say, pretty bad. Here's some demographic data on the school, and there's a button there to see academic performance. Not as bad as I thought it would be on either count, and they had two shootings in the same day there earlier this year and now this. I'm glad I teach at a more civilized school.


David Foster said...

When schools are not allowed to maintain any kind of order on their own--due to fear of lawsuits, "progressive" theories, whatever--situations are allowed to escalate to the point at which police presence is required. See my post Penny in the Fusebox.

Anonymous said...

From the way the article described it, the use of pepper spray sounds warranted. If this had happened anywhere but school, I'm sure there wouldn't be anything about it in the paper. If you get uppity with a police officer, he's gonna mace you. That's just how it works.

Anonymous said...

Without a video on youtube, this story does not have the legs the taser incident did. Local news, nothing more.

When it’s your word against the cops, you loose both in the courtroom and the court of public opinion. Imagine the Rodney King assault without it being caught on video, it would have been just another day in LA, but with the video…

“Here's some demographic data on the school, and there's a button there to see academic performance. Not as bad as I thought it would be on either count, and they had two shootings in the same day there earlier this year and now this. I'm glad I teach at a more civilized school.”

What does demographic data have to do with how you define “civilized?” That paragraph makes it very easy to call you a racist or at least elitist, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you can explain that comment.

Darren said...

By civilized, I mean that we don't have cops stationed on our campus. We don't have shootings on our campus. We don't fear each other on my campus.

As for the demographic data, my comment was directed more at class than race. More poverty, generally speaking, more troubles at school--and lover academic results. Poverty, in the educational setting, is often based on the % of students on free/reduced lunch.

And you make an incorrect inference. I didn't define civilized based on demographic data in the first place. My reference to "civilized" was to the two shootings in one day, but I understand how, based on how I wrote it, you came to the conclusion you did. I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to clarify that before jumping to extreme and unwarranted conclusions, as so often happens on blogs.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon

I’m Darren’s friend the cop. We go back a few years, back (in reference to the post on skis) to when I tried to ski and fell on my ass more than the Governator. I believe that was in Veil, but I digress.

Anon, you don’t seem to understand something. Mace is an intermediate weapon, like a baton or a Taser. You can use it to defend yourself. You can also use it to bring about an arrest. When this young man started to resist (which I gather from the article in the SAC BEE he did) Mace was an appropriate use of force to bring the suspect under control. Now I ask you, which would you rather see. The mace (which is washed out of the eyes by medics using saline) or a baton strike against the arms or legs? I gather from your earlier comment what you think about Tasers.

This may surprise you but as an officer I don’t have to be hurt before I use an intermediate weapon. You charge me unarmed I can use an intermediate weapon to stop you and make an arrest.

Also for your education, the local race baiting poverty pimps have complained about us using Tasers because it they are “too often used” on minorities. The detail they fail to mention is because of the Taser we have reduced the number of shootings we’ve had since the mass introduction of Tasers in my department in 2004. OK, which do you want, shootings or shockings?

Not about to say cops always do right. I can think of a few times I should have let someone go. I can also think of a few times I let a suspect go and I think later “I should have put his ass in jail.” Darren put it well when he said the badge isn’t a halo. But like most guys who wear a badge, I hope to go home every night after my shift and get it right a lot more often than I get it wrong.

Something for you to contemplate Anon.

Anonymous said...

"Why did they pepper spary this poor kid? Was there something wrong with their guns?"

That's exactly what I was wondering.

Anonymous said...

First time to comment on this blog.

"Resisting," "interfering," and "disobeying" seem to the charges most often named when really it's the misdemeanor of "pissing off a police officer." So when I see those charges coupled with a use of force, I generally find myself asking more questions that the articles answer.

As for pepper spray: at least it wasn't a potentially lethal taser. In my mind, taser's should be used as alternative to lethal force. Pepper spray is a good alternative to physical force. I see videos of and read stories about tasers being abused and misused frequently on students and teenagers.

Anonymous said...


Just curious, will you define "lethal force" for me?

If I read this post right, you’re saying I should be considering using a Taser when a man with a firearm is drawing down on me. Not in this universe.

No Tollie, a Taser is not lethal force. It’s an intermediate weapon. Now this may shock you, but every intermediate weapon is potentially deadly force. If I take my wood baton and strike you against your head, is that use of deadly force? Yes it is. You are using “force that is intended or known by the actor to cause, or in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing, death or serious bodily injury”. Texas Penal Code, Chapter 9.01, Definition of Deadly Force. I know this because one of my trainers had to use his baton on the head of a man about to knock him out. John had to justify his actions to the department and the grand jury and was no billed.

This may shock you more Tollie, but mace is also potentially lethal. Some people have severe allergic reactions to the stuff.

Can a Taser be lethal? In certain circumstances, yes. However, in well over 99% of the cases it only stuns. If the suspect has a pacemaker or a heart condition, it may cause a complication. Cops don't know this going into a fight. And when the “usual suspects” down here screamed that we shouldn’t use them, our Chief made the point in over 800 times of using the Taser over the last two years, in at least 35 cases there was no question deadly force was justified. Again, would you rather the man shot or stunned.

Tollie, I have to ask, how much college do you have?

Anonymous said...

I never proposed scenarios; I commented on various applications of technologies towards protocols.

Unpacking that a little, what I'm saying is: No, of course you don't draw a taser in response to the person with a gun. What an officer does do is beyond the scope of this article and beyond my desire to elaborate further.

Just to clear it up further, what I had in mind by "alternative to lethal force" would be situations where lethal force is potentially justified but not dictated necessary, such as a deranged man with a knife at 10 paces.

On the other hand, the tasering of a 6 year old with a shard of glass in the school's office is not an alternative to lethal force and is absurdly stupid - yet it happened, with three police officers on scene.