Tuesday, September 27, 2011

See For Yourself

A high-ranking New York City police officer — the white shirt is the uniform of a lieutenant or above — is caught on tape using pepper spray directly on an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator as she was held in custody by police. James Fallows reports:

Unless there is something faked about this video, which is on the New York Times‘ City Room site and is based on annotation and slow-mo apparently from USLaw.com, a uniformed New York City police officer abused power in a way that was cruel and cowardly during yesterday’s Wall Street protests. It’s worth the time to watch.

He walks up; unprovoked he shoots Mace or pepper spray straight into the eyes of women held inside a police enclosure; he turns and walks away quickly (as they scream, wail, and fall to the ground clawing at their eyes) in a way familiar from hitmen in crime movies; and he discreetly reholsters his spray can.

You may have already seen this. If you haven’t, it is worth knowing about. If this is what it looks like, it is outrageous. The mayor and others should say something. And this man can certainly be identified.

According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the Police Department says the spray was used “appropriately.” Oh, sure, it’s appropriate to use it on someone who is already in custody and not threatening anyone. (No, it’s not.)

Any crowd can get unruly, and the police have to be prepared for any contingency — I’m sure that if it was a Tea Party rally and they came packing heat they would be ready, right? — but for a plain-clothes officer to incapacitate a person just for the fun of it is over the top. Cops have a tough enough job without the additional burden of dealing with power-freaks like that.