More on the Pepper-Spraying Coward Cop

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It's been so long since I've caught up with the pepper-spraying coward cop story from this weekend that, way back then, his real name wasn't even known. For now I won't drum in his name and will just stick with "coward cop" -- because it was the cowardice, as much as the cavalier cruelty, that was so breathtaking in the original video. A cruel or sadistic cop would have blasted pepper spray into the eyes of penned-up civilians (who all were young women) and then stood and stared them down or laughed at them. A coward would blast them and then turn quickly away and try to melt into the crowd, as this one did.

Brief summary since then, with a few reader messages:

1) Of course, the coward-cop has been named

2) This afternoon new video surfaced, via Daily Kos, indicating that he'd done more or less the same thing to other civilian protestors that same day. Similar spray in the face, similar slinking away. Difference is that the objects of the spray weren't penned this time.



3) I may have missed it, but it appears that the city officials were paying no notice to this cowardly behavior until reports of the second episode surfaced.

3A) According to the NYT City Room blog, one of the coward's colleagues explained that it wasn't really two "separate" incidents:

>>Inspector Roy T. Richter, the head of the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents the upper echelons of city officers, said that he believed the second snippet of video was part of the same episode as the initial incident.

 [And also:] Inspector Richter continued: "[The coward's] actions that day were motivated by his concern for the safety of officers under his command and the safety of the public. The limited use of pepper spray effectively restored order without any escalation of force or serious injury to either demonstrator or police officer."<<

Convincing. Especially after he slunk away and left one of the blue-uniformed cops saying (according to many accounts I've received and this in the Village Voice) "He just fucking  maced us."

4) Although it would not be evident from these videos, the NYPD actually has a code of conduct / set of rules of engagement for using pepper spray. You can get a PDF of a report that includes it here. It's worth looking at in detail. (Also mentioned on Atlantic Wire.) To skip to the punch line: nothing that the coward-cop did, at least as shown in these videos, is in accord with these guidelines.

5) You've probably already seen it, but here's an account in the Boston Review from someone who was maced.

6) From a reader in Estonia:

>>About the video of the abusive behavior of New York City police officers: I omit the word alleged, because the video is proof enough that something in the most liberal parts of United States is wrong, since I always up to now felt that this behaviour belongs to Oklahoma and not into a metropolitan culture...

I have made a mental promise never to visit the United States.<<

7) From a reader in the US:

>>This is Dr. XX, a retired NYC academic and still active in the NGO community at the UN. 

This video has half a million hits at YouTube, is all over the international media (along with others about the U.S. police that day)-- a total of  10,000,000 hits at Google re: the Wall Street Protests.  It is an international embarrassment and being made a big deal of by those who want to compare this (not to mention major U.S. media not covering the protests until the violence [and still no CNN or MSNBC]) to our crusades re:  Egypt, Syria. Libya and Iran.  They are calling it American corporate censorship.  Even if that seems exaggerated, that is what it is being made out to be.<< 

8) A message typical of a large number I've received.

>>I'm a 50 year old mother from North Carolina, worked in politics for years (Gary Hart in 84 and 88, then the DSCC), but now work as a tennis instructor.  Last week, my 15 year old son participated in day one of Occupy Wall Street and I've been following ever since.

I'm frightened, and outraged, by what's going on in this country, and it's repercussions throughout the world.  I'm considering quitting my job, selling my house and becoming an activist, I just can't sit back and watch this.  I'll be in DC for the October 6th occupation of Freedom Plaza.<<

Enough for now. Coward.

And of course, it's not just him. What are you going to do about it, officials of NYC?

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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