Less than lethal force




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There is no denying that the use of pepper spray, Tasers and rubber bullets by police on protesters in America has increased enormously recently, so much so that we may have become desensitized to the point of not even questioning why it is happening.

When police administrators and cities started outfitting their police officers with “less-thanlethal” weaponry, it was intended to be used in situations in which the only alternative was for the police to shoot the suspect with a conventional gun.

Now look at the recent pepper spraying of the sitting and passive UC Davis protesters, or the 84-year old grandmother in Seattle. Would you say that the only alternative for the police officers involved in those incidents was to shoot these people dead? Assuming you are not a sociopath, you most likely answered, “No”.

American police departments employ weapons that were initially developed for military use and were intended to see action only in war. The year 2009 marked the first time American citizens were subjected to this new breed of military weapon. The Pittsburgh police deployed a Long Range Acoustical Device, or sound cannon, to help disperse crowds protesting the 2009 G-20 Summit with a deafening wail that made protesters run for cover in pain.

This complaint does not stop with the chemical agents and military hardware the police are using lately: Sometimes they just rely on good old-fashioned beatings to get their job done. On Nov. 9, police were sent to roust a camp of protesters on the UC Berkeley campus. When some of the protesters did not comply with the vacate order, they linked their arms and stood their ground. The police responded by lining up and repeatedly thrusting their batons into the bellies

of the peaceful protesters.

These protesters were breaking trespassing laws and should have been given their day in court. Instead, the police once again switched the branch of government they worked for and started decreeing judgments. Once again, those in charge, in this case UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, had no problem with police conduct on that day.

“We regret that, given the instruction to take down tents and prevent encampment, the police were forced to use their batons to enforce the policy,” Birgeneau said.

The police should have been under instructions to clear the plaza in a manner in which no one person would be injured—protester or police. Nevertheless, in this case, the police were told to physically punish the protesters into submission.

It should be noted that the intention of this article is not to berate police officers but to question the authorities who put these policies in place and armaments into the hands of the cops on the street in the first place. Police have to protect themselves; that much is understood, but these officers are an arm of the executive branch and should not be urged to perform a function of the judicial branch by rendering punishments on the spot to protesters and bystanders alike.

In 1994, when an 18-year old American in Singapore was arrested for theft and vandalism, the Singaporean judge opted for the traditional caning as punishment for his crimes. Americans stood up in outrage when this judgment was made. Where are the Americans of 1994 now? This form of corporal punishment is alive and well in America, and it even skips the legal proceedings the young American in Singapore was afforded.

The American people need to evaluate what is happening in our country in a non-hypocritical way. We love to cheer on the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya, but when it comes to our own fellow citizens, we turn a blind eye.