I wrote an article for LET recently stressing that law enforcement needs to adjust to changing times and technology in regard to cell phone video cameras.  I mentioned that officers are finding their actions video-recorded by citizens with cell phones in hand. 

When I saw the video of the infamous pepper-spraying incident of demonstrators by the police at the University at California, Davis, I knew there was another side of the story.  At that time, I truly didn’t know what led to the action taken, but I did not condemn the actions of the police lieutenant involved.

I was focused on the demonstrators. It was obvious to me that these protestors were prepared or coached prior to being pepper-sprayed. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the demonstrators wore hats to protect their eyes and took defensive action.   Before they were pepper-sprayed, they looked downward to diminish the effects as they “peacefully” blocked a sidewalk.

I thought that there must be more to this. The police obviously had taken the time to communicate with the demonstrators about the possibility of being pepper sprayed.  In addition, demonstrators had clearly also been coached by someone on what to wear and defensive action to be taken. Until today, I didn’t have proof.

Please review this You Tube footage which shows the entire incident in context, vs. the brief video showing only the pepper spraying which has gone viral:

UC Davis Pepper Spray – What Really Happened

The UC Davis College Republicans were on scene during this demonstration – cell phones in hand. Now we have their insight. This more complete version gives all of us context about what led up to the pepper-spraying incident.

Has your opinion of this incident changed after seeing that those students seated on the sidewalk did not take peaceful action? What are your thoughts after learning these protestors actually formed a blockade to deny the police a means to exit? As this was happening there were chants of “F**K the police!”   That’s not a peaceful statement.

All of these actions occurred in response to prior arrests of other demonstrators made by the police.  Now the officers (vastly outnumbered) are surrounded by demonstrators yelling “If you let them go, we will let you leave!”

Police cannot allow themselves to be cornered or to release those arrested due to threats.  No matter what your opinion regarding the pepper-spraying incident, it is clear that the brief, limited footage placed on You Tube previously had an agenda and did not show the complete story.

The step by step approach initiated by police to peacefully resolve the incident using the force continuum clearly indicates law enforcement acted in good faith. Police officers cannot permit themselves to be taken prisoner, as was the attempt here.

Thanks to the UC Davis Republicans, video footage now provides a far more complete picture of this ugly incident.  There is now an objective view of the crowd as well as the police. The integrity of this additional footage cannot be denied. The UC Davis Republicans make it clear the footage submitted is not complete from start to finish.  It has been edited for brevity. The sole purpose of the footage is to provide extended coverage and a better understanding into what happened. 

Law enforcement is by nature a dynamic profession, more so now than at any other time in history.  Policy and procedure do not cover each and every incident officers may face. They are general guidelines, but the appropriate use of police discretion is often necessary to successfully manage emergent scenarios. A full written report is required at those times to explain the departure from the guidelines.   The UC Davis Police Department made the right call, irrespective of slanted videos edited to provide one side of a story and resultant negative media coverage.