I am a retired peace officer and a veteran of protests of all types. The UC Davis pepper spray incident prompted investigations and retirements because most people do not generally understand such protests. There was nothing at all wrong with pepper spraying the demonstrators at Davis, and I'm about to tell you why. Call this "Crowd Control for Dummies."
1. Cops don't care about your issue. We care about going home in one piece. The health of my team and me is way more important than that of a bunch of scruffy hooligans.
2. The most peaceful crowd can become dangerous if you fail to check their behavior the first time they act out.
3. The front-liners mostly look like vagrants. The back of the crowd is where the organizers gather. These are professional agitators and often the most dangerous. We've stopped them with backpacks full of rocks and sharpened pieces of rebar.
4. I've been hit with bits of concrete I never saw coming. Don't throw stuff at me. If you do, I'll throw something back, only it'll be wooden dowels, rubber bullets or pepper spray. My guys don't get paid to stand still and be targets. Yell your heads off and hold signs. It's noisy, but nobody gets hurt.
5. Don't break things, steal, start fires or resist lawful authority. By doing this you graduate from protester to criminal, and you'll be treated accordingly.
6. We are not trained to hit people in the head with clubs. Nevertheless, that's the shot the media wants. It's also why you might see a police videographer behind the lines. We don't trust the media to be fair and impartial because they're not.
7. The decision to make you vacate an area is made far above the grunt level. When it does come and you fail to move, link arms, lie on the ground or hug a lamppost, see No. 5.
8. I can employ reasonable force, if you refuse to move when told to do so. This includes any number of pain compliance holds, but I'd rather arrest you peaceably. Many control holds are far more painful than pepper spray, with longer-lasting effects. The cop who sprayed the demonstrators at UC Davis was doing them a favor.
9. Nobody from my former agency is going to carry you. We might drag you, but they're more likely to give you the incentive to get up and walk on your own by using those pain compliance holds. See Nos. 1 and 5. I'm not giving my guys bad backs, hips or knees by ordering them to carry your sorry butt.
10. Protesters would complain if all we did was stare at them. But, referring back to No. 8, when the order comes to move you, I'm not going to say "please" 5,182 times and hope.
11. Political entities want to appear acquiescent and "friendly." In Oakland's case, the tents would probably still be in Ogawa Plaza if businesses had not complained about the stench, dope smoke, litter and vagrancy.
12. At one demonstration, counterdemonstrators were the only ones we bagged. (They were drunk and behaved badly.) Not one hippie was arrested that day. See? Behave yourselves and we all go home in one piece.
Dale R. Toussaint is a resident of Hayward.