Berkeley police request use of pepper spray days before Ben Shapiro event

City of Berkeley Agenda/Courtesy

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Berkeley Police Department is asking the city for permission to use pepper spray ahead of conservative writer Ben Shapiro’s speech and Milo Yiannopoulos’s Free Speech Week at UC Berkeley.

According to a report BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood submitted to City Council, the council established an interim policy for BPD’s use of pepper spray in 1997. The policy, called General Order U-2, stated that BPD will not use pepper spray for crowd control situations. In the report, however, Greenwood requested that the policy be changed.

“Pepper spray is a law enforcement industry standard tool that is used by virtually every major police agency in the United States,” Greenwood said in the report. “Currently the Berkeley Police Department is hampered during crowd events in addressing coordinated groups of violent offenders because the only tools available are batons, less lethal projectiles, smoke, and tear gas canisters. The prohibition of pepper spray as a force option limits the Police Department’s ability to respond effectively to acts of violent attacks and to protect those engaged in lawful First Amendment Activities.”

In the report, Greenwood said a pepper spray aerosol dispenser would allow officers to use “a direct, limited application of force to repel specific attackers,” whereas tear gas canisters release a cloud of chemical irritation into a larger area that could harm peaceful protesters or uninvolved community members.

He added that all BPD officers have been trained on the “proper application, target areas, medical response and reporting requirements” associated with pepper spray. He emphasized that when officers use pepper spray, a “use of force” report is submitted and then sent to the council, which helps hold the department accountable to the community.

BPD has faced criticism in the past for excessive force, most notably in the case of Kayla Moore, a transgendered Black woman who died in custody, and the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests.

Greenwood cited examples of past protests in the report, including the Milo Yiannopoulos protest Feb. 1, as well as the “alt-right” rallies that took place March 4, April 15 and Aug. 27.

“Over this year, Berkeley has been the focus of an unprecedented effort to be made a battleground for extremist groups,” Greenwood said in the report. “There has been a recent increase in violence and criminal behavior by extremist groups across the nation who have targeted First Amendment activities — events that the Berkeley Police Department is committed to protecting.”

He said that at each of the protests, “extremists” showed up armed with shields, which render less-lethal projectile weapons ineffective. He added, however, that pepper spray would be “markedly more effective,” since shields don’t provide full protection against chemical irritants.

In the report, Greenwood proposed that General Order U-2 be amended to specify that pepper spray should not be directed against peaceful, nonviolent individuals. The amendment would also include that officers should not use pepper spray to disperse or move a crowd.

“Officers deploying pepper spray in a crowd situation shall attempt to limit collateral exposure to non-involved parties,” Greenwood said in the report. “Where there is probable cause to arrest for a crime, officers shall prioritize where practical the arrest of individuals upon whom pepper spray has been deployed.”

The item will be discussed at the council’s next special meeting Sept. 12.

Chantelle Lee is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ChantelleHLee.

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  • If people are going to be unruly and violent, regardless of what “side” they’re on, I have no problem with law enforcement using tear gas. It’s not like they’re jumping straight to rubber bullets.

  • marina brown

    What is that pedophila appologist doing speaking in public again ? Who is paying for this shameful display ?

  • Jack Spencer

    They’re up against ANTIFA who’s sole purpose is to hurt people. All bets are off. Let them use whatever means are most effective.

    • Giorgios Anapoulos

      Why not throw them into concentration camps and gas them? “All bets are off. Let them use whatever means are most effective.” Frankly you don’t sound much nicer than the BAMN people.

      • Jack Spencer

        Are you serious? Good Lord

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          I think he’s pretty naive and has some Dunning Kruger in him!

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        lol, you have a huge world view. /sarcastic

  • FreedomFan

    I don’t see where a change in policy is needed. There is no use of pepper spray against “crowds” before or after the proposed change. Using pepper spray against “individuals” is not “crowd-control”.

    I hope the police figure out how to deal with the violent, masked thugs in black. It’s outrageous that these criminals are allowed to wear masks to hide their identities, flouting the law. I suspect antifa’s pal in the mayor’s office has tied the hands of the police. BPD just looks foolish to the rest of the country.

    • Giorgios Anapoulos

      What do you mean by “flouting the law”? By wearing masks? Is that against the law? (It sounded to me that you were implying that is against the law to wear masks, I don’t know if that it is true or not, but it doesn’t seem likely to me.)

      • SecludedCompoundTTYS

        No but it’s usually a sign that you will be doing something illegal (aka violence). Come on, can we all agree that ANTIFA is a bunch of idiots and a very small minority. They are literally using Fascists tactics to fight none existent fascism. The cognitive dissonance, irony, hypocrisy and comedy is just too large among these folks.

      • FreedomFan

        In California, it is illegal to wear a mask in the act of committing a crime. The University of California, Berkeley, also has its own regulation for masks: People who are not affiliated with the university cannot wear masks on campus for the purpose of intimidation.

        If police would have only enforced this simple law, all the violence at Berkeley would have been prevented. Obviously Berkeley and its corrupt politicians want to perpetrate lawless violence against Conservatives.

  • Thorn A. Fusco

    let them have it. im tired of each side claiming ” the police should be arresting you” // show them what it’s really like- everyone involved in this nonsense gets gassed.

    • Giorgios Anapoulos

      I agree to some extent. Honestly I think everyone, left and right and 4th-dimensional or whatever, just shows up because it is essentially an opportunity to beat the **** out of people and get away with it. Do we really need to re-open the Coliseum or the Fighting Pits of Meereen just because these people know of no better way to express strong emotions than to physically assault others? I would prefer to walk around town without having to worry about throngs of people violently assaulting me.