The recent incident at Santa Monica College serves to highlight a growing problem in this country—the use of pepper spray on protesters. Before the advent of this spray, police only had two options: shoot or do not shoot. Now, with different means of non-deadly force, police can use these different tactics to deter what they deem as “unruly” behavior. But just because they can does not mean they should. In fact, pepper spray should never be used on a crowd of people simply speaking their minds. Here are ten reasons why the use of pepper spray should not be allowed:
10. Pepper Spray does not equal jalapenos
Let’s look at the misconceptions first. Certain “news” outlets have made remarks that pepper spray is just a derivative of peppers like jalapenos. So it is just like hot sauce, right? Not quite. Pepper spray is not the kind of thing you put on your pizza or burrito, but if we would like to compare it to hot sauce or peppers, we might find it illuminating. In order to measure the “hotness” or “spiciness” of something, a measurement called Scoville units is used. The more points, the hotter the sauce or pepper. To give more perspective on this, jalapenos range anywhere from 2,500 units to 8,000 units, pretty hot. However, the hottest peppers range anywhere from 300,000 units to 1,000,000 units. Police pepper spray outweighs any of these by a long shot. The weaponized spray comes in at a whopping 5,300,000 units. Pure capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their “hotness,” is 15,000,000 units. Do you want a third of that power in your eyes? Didn’t think so.
9. This stuff is very hard to get out of clothing or anything it comes in contact with, so even after a victim is pepper sprayed, that victim can put on a shirt that still has the spray on it and have the effects start all over again. This could occur days after the incident.
8. Other bystanders might also be hit with the spray.
The targets themselves are not always the ones hit. If it is sprayed in enclosed quarters, everyone in the room could feel its effects. This means that even if children are in the room, they would also succumb to the excruciating pain of the spray in their eyes and even lungs.
7. This is lazy police work.
Rather than try other means at their disposal, police too readily reach for this weapon. The ease with which officers react with pepper spray remains alarming. Other tactics might be used instead, like arresting people peacefully instead of attacking them. Moreover, it seems that they are bad at judging who is and is not a threat. Even 84 year old ladies are fair game.
6. It is against protocol. The chancellor at UC Davis openly condemned this use of force. Some may object and say that this only applies to campus police, but aren't city police officers who are better trained supposed to act above reproach? Police should show more restraint.
5. This sets a dangerous precedent for future abuses. Already it seems like pepper spraying protesters is a common place occurrence. This is a slippery slope towards more egregious offenses, even violations of our privacy, but that makes for a different article.
4. It escalates the intensity of the protesters.
Think about it. A police officer just shot weaponized pepper spray in your friend's eyes. Will this deter your cause or solidify it? Moreover, people watching on television who see old ladies sprayed in the face for voicing her opinion--do you think they will have some strong feelings about that? The more oppressive the force, the more the push back will be. This use of force is only counter-productive for police in the long run.
3. The inventor of the pepper spray has said that it should not be used in this capacity. If the creator himself has said that this is a misuse of the product, should we not listen to him? He has made the intention of its use clear, but do police departments know better? Somehow I don't think so.
2. It violates our rights to assembly and speech.
It is our constitutional right to peaceably assemble and to voice our dissent. Any attempt to deter this is therefore an attempt to squelch our constitutional rights as Americans. Simply put, this is wrong.
1. The last point is a question for you, reader: Do you want to live in a world where police are allowed to attack an unarmed civilian? Moreover, do you want your children to live in a world that looks like this: