If you want to know which of your friends or neighbors believe in a free and humane society and which ones believe in a police state, show them the now-gone-viral video of a riot-gear-clad University of California-Davis police officer dousing a peaceful group of Occupy protesters with pepper spray as they sat, arms linked, in the campus quad. Most of us react in horror at what we saw, and at the absurdly dishonest explanations from the campus police chief. But some people think the protesters got what they deserved and even called for heavier-handed tactics.
Police officials – and these days, campus security guards have gained the power of full-fledged police officers, complete with those massive pensions and all the usual protections from accountability – claimed that the officer felt that his life was in danger when they he methodically walked down the line of protesters and assaulted them with the spray. "If you look at the video you are going to see that there were 200 people in that quad," said Chief Annette Spicuzza, who was placed on leave (i.e., additional paid vacation) Monday after a backlash against the brutality. "Hindsight is 20-20 and based on the situation we were sitting in, ultimately that was the decision that was made."
That's what police always say no matter the situation. But in this age of video, we can see for ourselves that the officers were in no danger. Multiple officers effortlessly moved in and around the protesters. The burly officer who sprayed the kids strutted slowly in front of them in a way that belies any sort of danger, real or perceived. He, too, was put on administrative leave after the video went viral, along with another officer. Without the video, you know what would have happened – nothing. The lies would have become the official record. This is why police officers have become zealous in their confiscation of video cameras and arrest of people who record them doing their jobs.