Pain Compliance
January 4, 2001 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Pain Compliance -- Is it a revolutionary new tool for law enforcement, or legalized torture?
posted by snakey (34 comments total)
Can't police just drag protestors away from a scene without torturing them? How about doping them up with nitrous oxide or something, and then carting them away? ("They may not have listened to us, but at least they got us REALLY high!")
posted by waxpancake at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2001

Some cops like to inflict pain. Watching the video, you can tell that these guys really love their job.
posted by snakey at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2001


"The protesters claim they were subjected to excessive force when officers put liquefied pepper spray directly in their eyes with cotton swabs."

My eyes welled up at the mere thought of that.

And before someone points it out, despite the fact that the protestors were protesting on private property, there's no reason to directly apply liquified pepper spray to the eyes of people who are sitting down with their hands linked in lock boxes.
posted by cCranium at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2001

there's no reason to directly apply liquified pepper spray to the eyes of people

Sure there's a reason. It's quick and effective, renders the protestors incapacitated, and discourages others from becoming protestors (would you even consider protesting after seeing that video?).

It is cruel as anything I can imagine, and seeing gov't officials and officers delight in the application of said torture is troubling.

In the sixties, it was fire hoses pointed at people, in the 90's/00's, it's pepper spray swabbing.
posted by mathowie at 10:35 AM on January 4, 2001

Frankly, I'd much rather get hit with a good blast from a firehose. Yeah, it hurts, but it's not comparable to pepper spray.

Yes, I've experienced both. I'm always that innocent bystander.
posted by annathea at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2001

Next time, I hope the protestors bring plenty of morphine patches.
posted by snakey at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2001

For those who are interested in the case, here is the entire decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as well as a summary of the decision.

Excerpt from the summary: "The trial court dismissed the lower-level deputies and officers on the basis of qualified immunity. So that was good news for our participants."
Well, I know that I'm relieved.

Does anyone know if the city and county appealed the decision or did they settle?
posted by Avogadro at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2001

The answer is "no." The police cannot drag the protesters away (in the pepper spray case) because they used lock boxes and metal sleeves to effectively keep themselves in place.

To move the protesters means firing up a blow torch or cutting through the metal with a saw. We're not talking about the simple protests of the '60s where people simply sit down and wait to be arrested and dragged away. These type of protesters are determined to stay in place and cause as much disruption as possible.

You might think police could simply wait and let nature take its course. (Hunger or bowel distress would take hold eventually.) But in this case you're talking about a rural town with a small police force. A dedicated protest like this can mean real problems and real emergencies are not tended to properly, and the cost of devoting staff to the protest can be enormous.

Just the same, I would favor other forms of pain compliance that do not involve chemicals because of the risk of allergic reaction (death).
posted by fleener at 11:39 AM on January 4, 2001

despite the fact that the protestors were protesting on private property...

Actually, weren't they in a government building? The office of a member of Congress? But in any case...

Protesting in this country has gotten really, really weird and scary. Between the strict city permitting demands and the cops ready to bash your head in if you look at them funny, I think our assembly rights are extremely weakened and increasingly threatened these days.
posted by acridrabbit at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2001

true. then again public assembly has gotton weird too. Its almost never "grass roots" but rather part of a very well organized campaign to make it look grass roots. And its not really used for the purpose of "public assembly" like its 1760 or somthing.. its more likely used as a media entrapment exercise to draw eyeballs to a cause via you guessed it, police brutality.
posted by stbalbach at 12:18 PM on January 4, 2001

I'm not arguing against pepper spray in general, but putting it on a cotton swab and scraping against someone's eye?

Christ, I barely trust my optomatryst when she tells me the little puffy of air thing isn't going to do any harm, let alone a cop with cotton on a hollow plastic stick.

Hold their eyes open and pepper spray from two feet away, that's fully legal. Hold their eyes open and dab toxins on their pupils, that's not even close.
posted by cCranium at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2001

Utterly unjustifiable. Infuriating. I realize that this is an old clip, and I've seen it many times, but I simply CANNOT get over the brutality of these pigs (and that IS the proper word for them).

I wonder how many of them got erections from hearing the young women scream in pain.
posted by Optamystic at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2001

My favorite part of the article has to be the boldface caption above the Quicktime: "Watch as police rub pepper spray into protesters' eyes!" NEXTTIME, on FOX's "When Officers Attack!"

posted by JimmyTones at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2001

Stalbach, what the hell??! What protests have *you* been at or organized lately? How are you arriving at those conclusions? Like any protestors *want* to get assaulted? The hell?

And the media! Ha! That is a joke, right? The media *never* want to cover protests, they hate protests, and they always always use police figures when minimalizing how many people attend protests. Most of the media are the establishment's best friend.

Kee-rist on a kandy kane.

posted by acridrabbit at 2:27 PM on January 4, 2001

From a protestor's perspective, the question would be how do you stop these sickening atrocities in the future? The cops used 'pain compliance' on protestors in Seattle, using this video as a precedent.

You'll have a hard time finding any media coverage of those Seattle incidents, so don't expect the media to stir up any public outrage over this practice anytime soon. Short of an 'Off the Pig' strategy, is there anything a protestor can do deter law enforcement from using 'pain compliance'?
posted by snakey at 3:09 PM on January 4, 2001

As a start, know what you're up against.

Then, use the buddy system to get it all on video.

Then, sue their bloody asses off.
posted by Skot at 3:28 PM on January 4, 2001

“Pain Compliance” is doublespeak, just like “downsize”. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.

Obviously, there's no arguement that torture should be used on non-violent individuals, but this is exactly what happens. I've been pepper sprayed once, and tear gassed another time.

No one was being violent, the police just decided they'd had enough of us, and decided to dispurse us through force. That is against my right to peacefully assemble and to free speech, but there you have it. The town had many problems in the years before I left it, and the ACLU mounted several lawsuits. The cops who use oppressive force, always get off, but the Police Department changed their policy. If a policeman uses pepper spray in conflict with the new policy, then they might more plausibly get sanctioned.

Which is what I'm looking for. I would sue any policeman who sprays me, inflicts pain on me, if I am not a threat. In my mind this warrants self-defense, but if I ever pepper sprayed a cop I'd be slapped with a felony suit. Assaulting a police officer. Why isn't assaulting a non-violent citizen a felony?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:03 PM on January 4, 2001

In this particular case, they were protesting in the offices. I don't think the right to peaceful assembly carries through quite that strongly, does it? They were pretty much tresspassing.

In that regard, I can understand using pepper spray as a means of getting them off the property. What I most definetely do not agree with is applying the pepper spray in an illegal manner. It's painful enough when just sprayed on, but brushed on with a Q-Tip? My eyes want to climb into the back of my head at the thought.
posted by cCranium at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2001

I think that the protestors have a right to meet with their elected representatives. The way I heard about this case, the protestors staged a sit in in his office so that he'd have to talk to them.
posted by snakey at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2001

acridrabbit, I agree that the media seem to have collectively decided not to cover protests, at least in the US. I think the reason is that most reporters in the US these days are aging Baby Boomers who want to believe that there is no such thing as a protest outside the years 1960-1969, and they will go to great lengths to "prove" that.
posted by Potsy at 12:46 AM on January 5, 2001

snakey: You're right, it's the congressman's office. I misread it the first time around as some Timber Exec's office.

(obLeftist: But there's no difference, since the government is in the pocket of Big Business anyway :-)

Is a congressperson's office considered public ground? It's paid for through taxes, obviously, but the actual property could be being leased from a private corporation, in which case they'd be trespassing.

My only reason for wondering is because if they staged it just outside the office, with the sit-in and the lock-down, the police would have to get a much better reason (ie, concern for public safety perhaps) for breaking it up. If it is indeed private property, then the police have an excuse for breaking it up.

I'm actually trying to forestall arguments of "It's private property so the police can do what it takes to get them out," (not an argument I expect here on MeFi really, but definetely an argument some may make) with the argument that force exceeding that permissible by law is just plain wrong, especially from officers of that law.
posted by cCranium at 5:24 AM on January 5, 2001

According to the appeals court decision, the sheriff's department had training on how to use a "grinder" (read: saw) to extricate the protesters from the black bears and had enough time to use the grinder, but chose instead to take the time to call a pepper spray trainer, the county's risk manager, and the district attorney to find out if it was legal to use pepper spray.

Basically, it doesn't matter where the protest took place; applying pepper spray directly in the eyes of trespassers (since that was the only crime committed by the protester) violates every sense of proportionality.
posted by Avogadro at 6:06 AM on January 5, 2001

This is the kinda shit that really pisses me off.

My father is a cop, has been most of life. We talked about this, and it made him sick. There is no good damn reason to swab it on them.

Might as well start injecting the protesters with drano or something like that....

There are just too many people that get into "Law Enforcement" for the power trip. We know several of these people, and can't wait for them to slip and get busted. Unfortunately, that means someone innocent (or undeserviing) is gonna get hurt.
posted by barenakedAvenger at 7:47 AM on January 5, 2001

Despite some people's views, there are effective ways of protesting besides being a public nuisance and causing disruption of the lives of people who don't share and/or want to listen to your ideas.

Protest all you want - protesting is GREAT! The public changing things that they don't like about our government or whathaveyou is what makes America great. But remember the old saying about freedom of speech:

"The right to swing your fists ends where my nose begins."

If you and your 30 buddies want to protest Bill 43291Af, or whatever, then by all means DO IT! But when you and said buddies link yourselves together with chains and such and sit yourselves down in front of the government building of choice and make yourselves immobile in the street shouting HELL NO, WE WON'T go and you interfere with the rights of others around you, say the guy trying to get to work who has to take the long route and ends up late because you and your buddies were blocking traffic, or somebody else sees your protesting and gets inspired and begins to act just a bit more towards violence, when the police show up and you refuse to move and they try to haul you off and you keep resisting, then I hope they give you the Guatamalan Insanity Pepper-version of pepper spray. If your protesting interferes with the rights of others then you are no better than the evil government types you are protesting. It's the police's job to keep the peace, and what some people call "peaceful protest" isn't really when you think about it.

With freedom comes responsibility. Make as much noise as you want but don't interfere with my day if I don't want to hear it. Same thing I dislike about overly religious types - whether they intend to or not (and to their credit, a lot probably do not) they might end up forcing their beliefs on others. I hate that.

The police are just doing their job. Sure, a lot of their tactics have become more and more agressive lately, but LOOK AT WHAT THEY'RE BEGINNING TO FACE! Look at the bank robbery in California a while back, with folks in heavy body armor and rifles taking pot shots are the poor policemen armed with 9mm handguns and shotguns wearing street cop uniforms with a measly "bullet-proof" vest (which is NOT bullet proof against a rifle round!). Look at what happened just near me recently here in north Texas, where seven escaped convicts broke into an Oshman's. When Iriving, TX street cops responded, they found themselves ambushed by the seven men who had armed themselves with rifles from the Oshman's hunting section. Officer Aubrey Hawkins was murdered by these jackals. No friggen wonder the police are more agressive! They're just trying to survive! And then to come home and turn on the TV and see so many people second-guessing their actions. They don't get nearly as much respect as they should, and face dangerous criminals every day, and people expect them not to be a little tough on lawbreakers?

Wow, first people hated policemen's usage of deadly force - now they hate usage of less-lethal or less-than-lethal force? What are the police supposed to do? Ask nicely? Tickle them with feathers?
posted by Spirit_VW at 6:57 PM on January 5, 2001

Make as much noise as you want but don't interfere with my day if I don't want to hear it.

Yeah, wouldn't want to annoy anyone with those awful protests!

Less sarcastically, are you seriously comparing an ambush by seven heavily-armed escaped lifers to a non-violent sitdown protest in which everyone involved already has their arms locked down? Get a grip.
posted by rodii at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2001

I gotta say, I often believe protesters are protesting for ridiculous causes and I think they often do it in counterproductive ways, but they most certainly should not be subjected to inhumane treatment and in fact should be permitted to protest to whatever extent they desire, as long as it is peaceful. Someday I may want to protest something, and I want those people treated in a considerate fashion so that the police become accustomed to acting that way. (That in addition to basic human decency, of course.)
posted by kindall at 9:35 PM on January 5, 2001

The news report at the top is over three years old. Has there been some recent newsworthy activity on the pepper-spray front? Or is this merely random doo-doo stirring?

Oh well, let's stir. I wish people would see this for what it is, a big game. The police are looking to maintain public order, and the protesters are looking for a way to cause maximum disruption. And if they can find a way to look peaceable on camera while preventing the cops from carrying out orders to remove them without taking measures that cause discomfort to the protesters, then they've won the game.

I mean, it's a bit bogus to yell "excessive force" when you've schemed and plotted an action that makes impossible any non-forceful action to uphold the law.

Maybe tear gas canisters filled with chloroform. That might work.
posted by aaron at 11:32 PM on January 5, 2001

Glad to see you haven't read any of the comments before posting yours.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:43 AM on January 6, 2001

Spirit_VW: The police are just doing their job.

aaron: it's a bit bogus to yell "excessive force"

I just found this page from the aclu which describes Pepper Spray usage.

Here's a relevant quote:
"Proper tactics dictate the element of surprise, remaining 4 to 6 feet from the subject and actuating your projector in two (double tap) 1/4- to 1-second bursts," the company advises in a brochure for its First Defense spray.
There's much more, including the fact that according to California Police Guidelines pepper spray is only to be used against aggresive assailants.

The police, in this case, were most emphatically not just doing their job, and the were most emphatically using excessive force.

Police breaking up the protest can, to some degree, be justified. I certainly don't agree with the justification, but it does fall under the umbrella of the Law, so hey, what can you do. But the manner in which it was broken up is astoundingly far outside the scope of acceptable behaviour by these officers.
posted by cCranium at 7:49 AM on January 6, 2001

Ahoy Cap'n! Nice to see your standard M.O. remains intact.

cCranium: The next paragraph of those guidelines:

"Should you have to use First Defense up close, we recommend avoiding usage closer than 3 feet because of possible hydraulic needle effect, to the eyes in particular."

Those instructions refer to using the spray. Even water could cause a hydraulic needle effect if sprayed into the eyes at close range using a propellant. But when you take the pepper spray liquid and apply it using a Q-tip, we're into a different area.

I'm not saying using this stuff is particularly nice. But as I asked above: When protesters set themselves up in a way that makes it pretty much impossible to remove them without causing said protesters some level of physical discomfort, what else are the police supposed to do?

The protesters set themselves up this way on purpose, to create a win-win situation. If the police wimp out and do nothing, the protesters win. If the police remove them, they can cry "excessive force" and get lots of attention. The protesters win.
posted by aaron at 2:23 PM on January 6, 2001

aaron, you have a history of baiting people you don't agree with on MeFi, for not much better reason than you don't like their world-view. So, I guess, you're right. You don't change.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:21 PM on January 6, 2001

aaron, also note in the original article that the spray was used within under two feet, and this quote from the article I linked:
"It's putting aside police practices, international human rights, the Constitution and manufacturer's guidelines. How could these officers and these agencies think that somehow those policies and standards did not apply to them?"
The police, as has been mentioned in this thread, have to tool with which to deal with the metal sleeves. They chose not to use the tool, and they allowed themselves to be videotaped explicitly ignoring the manufactures' guidelines and their own regulations.

I'll say it again. I'm not against the police breaking up the protest, everything I can see indicates that they were right in doing so. The method in which they broke it up, however, is extreme to say the least.
posted by cCranium at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2001

Funny how all non-conservative posts are normal discussion, yet anything that dares question them constitutes "baiting" in your world, crackpipe.
posted by aaron at 9:37 PM on January 6, 2001

Capt. and Aaron: Maybe it is time to take this to e-mail. Bickering publicly doesn't do anybody any good. I know I do it too, but you guys aren't even tangentially touching on the thread anymore.
posted by thirteen at 10:31 PM on January 6, 2001

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