SPD officers use of pepper spray in crowd control

Well, well, well . . . what an interesting topic we have here.

Of course, one question that a random person in the street could ask is whether and how often SPD officers, in the guise of public safety or protecting someone, spray persons, rightly or wrongly, who have not in fact been threatening them at all.

After all, we should all know that the city of Seattle is very, very strict about such things.

Seattle is like paranoid on the topic and the city will just fall on person like a ton of bricks for improper use of pepper spray; will they not? They have in the past and so we would naturally expect SPD officers to be held to careful standards of conduct.

In January 2015, there was a set of police set up at a MLK day set of speeches and post-assembly departure. Officer Sandra delaFuente was part of the line of officers with bicycles. Either because delaFuente wrongly believed that an officer had been injured, or for seemingly no other reason, officer delaFuente sprayed pepper spray on passing bystanders who were peacefully walking on the sidewalk and one of whom was talking on his cell phone.

Felony assault; right?

Well, not quite. delafuente admitted that she had been mistaken and had acted in haste. No criminal charges were brought; no firing; no suspension was done. The city paid out $100,000 to settle a civil lawsuit and all was well. delaFuente had just pepper sprayed a history teacher on his way back to school or some other meaningful, noncriminal trip.

Maybe she is a fluke . . . but if we search the web on this topic, what do we also find?

In 2013 there were some Mayday protests on May 1st.

The SPD force has an officer named Thomas Burns who has written one or more articles on the topic of less lethal use of force in crowd control or other situations and these articles are now in a published book. Burns has also been a trainer for SPD.

In fact, we could say that Burns has written a book about less than lethal force, but it is more like he was a coauthor.

And it turns out that there is on youtube a videoclip of a random SPD officer identified at first as Burns or T Burns, and later Thomas Burns. The reason that spd officer T Burns is on youtube is that the clip on youtube includes 4 to 10 seconds of using pepper spray on people walking on the sidewalk whom Burns wishes to move out of the way or whom he might regard as blocking his walk or whatever. We don’t really know.

If you do go and view the clip, the spray is use at from about 1:36 to about 1:44, in terms of time.

We don’t know for sure what was in Burns mind at the time . . . we don’t have the report.

The videoclip on youtube happens to include audio. So, we can ask if, in the audio of the clip, “Do we hear or see Burns or others being threatened by those on the sidewalk whom he sprays? Do we see some of them approaching Burns in a hostile manner or with objects in their hands?” Well not exactly . . . no.

Were any of those sprayed on May 1st 2013 by SPD officers or by Burns relatively innocent? Well . . . we would never know, of course . . . except . . . of course for the fact that news media persons with cameras doing video were also present.

And, as luck would have it, one or more of the news media persons with cameras and recording equipment, engaged in nonviolent recording of a public event, are later identified as having gotten sprayed with pepper spray. Officer Thomas Burns seemed to a leader in the use of the pepper spray. Perhaps it was Thomas Burns who sprayed a news team with a camera; perhaps it was another officer. We don’t really know if the other officers were as liberal as Burns in the use of the spray as we see in the clip on youtube. It does seem fairly liberal in its use . . .

Was it felony assault or was Burns quelling a violent riot . . . Well, we do have the video, or, youtube does, and you and I can determine from the video at least some of what was happening at the moment Burns is doing his spraying and just before.

What interesting questions these are! SPD officers use pepper spray on persons A, B and C to stop persons M, N and Q from rioting or as a generalized pre-emptive measure to make sure that A, B and C do not riot and that they move off the sidewalk very quickly . . . The question is what is the proximity of A B and C, who seem to be peaceful and innocent, to M N and Q, who may be a block away, maybe or half a block away? Tis hard to say and we don’t really know . . .

Yeah, as I have written, Seattle is really, really strict about the wrongful use of pepper spray . . . SPD will bring felony assault charges against you . . . and some of them spray whomever at a protest if someone else in the protest has thrown a rock or other item . . . or if they have an inkling, right or wrong, that someone has thrown a rock.

Now, as for officer Thomas Burns, the fellow with the spray used on May Day 2013 . . . he is still an SPD officer and still doing trainings for SPD . . .

But, as I have said, The wrongful use of pepper will lead SPD officers to put in jail with no bail allowed on a felony assault charge . . . You know, just like they charged officer delaFuente and put her in jail . . . You have seen the news; have you not?


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