UC Davis Pepper Spraying Should Bring “Zero Tolerance” for Brutal Policing

UC Davis Pepper Spraying Should Bring “Zero Tolerance” for Brutal Policing

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The recent pepper spraying of Occupy protesters at the University of California, Davis, went a long way to exposing an ethos of privilege, arrogance and contempt for students that is all too common among the top university administrators and campus police.

Yet an even deeper institutional venality exposes a growing trend within the imperial American power structure, which increasingly inflicts punishment on protestors at home and adversaries abroad in equal measure.

Following the national outcry against the pepper spraying, UC Davis hired Altegrity, a New York-based private contractor, to “investigate” the chemical attack on students. Some of Altegrity’s employees once provided security in Baghdad.

Altegrity is headed by William Bratton, the controversial former police chief of Boston, New York and Los Angeles. In 2010, his company acquired the private security firm Kroll Inc., for $1.13 billion. Previously, Kroll had worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency providing American aid abroad, in Baghdad.

Bratton’s Heavy-Handed Policing

While in New York, Bratton, in conjunction with then-Mayor Rudi Giuliani, initiated such policing policies as Zero Tolerance and Broken Windows. The strategies resulted in heavy-handed enforcement that, for example, kept local order by intimidating or arresting people for the smallest infractions, such as breaking a window.

This hard-line approach fostered the atmosphere in which New York police assaulted and brutalized the Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, and the murdered the Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo.

Bratton instituted Comparative Statistics in Los Angeles, a policing method whereby patrols are beefed up in neighborhoods with high crime rates in anticipation of more crime. The approach brings to mind Philip K. Dick's novel and film, The Minority Report, about a dystopian police state in which people are punished for crimes that they might have committed.

The Bratton mindset makes no distinction among California university students, New York’s recent immigrants or Iraqi insurgents.

Authors Manning Marable and Hishaam D. Aidi note in their 2009 book, Black Routes to Islam, “Bratton takes the ideological and material links between domestic policing and colonial war much further.

According to Bratton, there are about 70 LAPD officers in Iraq training with the United States military at any one time, while Los Angeles police officers have also trained Marines how to gather evidence at a bomb scene and also to give their guidance on urban policing for the United States military abroad.” (The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, a year after Bratton became LAPD’s chief. He stepped down from the position in 2009.)

It is doubtful that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and other misguided administrators who hired Bratton’s firm possess the requisite intellectual capacity to comprehend the full implications of their decisions. Appreciably clueless is John Pike, the police officer, who initiated the pepper spraying.

Yet the mindset that violated students at UC Davis may seem less significant than major American transgressions abroad in recent years, but make no mistake that the same militaristic impulse has allowed for the tortures at Abu Ghraib, the killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, the deadly drone attacks into Pakistan and the wholesale aerial bombing of Libya.

An imperial America does not stumble toward fascism merely by championing such clowns as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich or by falling for Obama’s hollow promises of hope and change.

The transformation is effected more decisively as voters lose confidence in their putatively democratic government apparatuses. Do Americans think this country is immune to the a process that elsewhere has given rise to a single, despotic and charismatic leader, who arrives with promises to “clean house” while shredding the constitution?

Today, with the U.S. Congress less popular than President Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal, this process is well under way.

Why Multiple Investigations?

UC Davis students have been given a glimpse of their university administration’s true face, which had been hidden under a patina of gentility and “academic freedom.” The Katehi regime, however, is heedless, hiring “investigators” one must suspect of having brutal sympathies with those they are charged with investigating. Even more taxpayer money is being wasted by the Yolo County District Attorney's office and the University of California system, as each is conducting an investigation of its own.

Yet what is there to investigate?

Millions have watched the assault on students and many thousands have read or heard the pathetically self-serving statements issued by Chancellor Katehi and campus police chief Annette Spicuzza, who told media, “The students had encircled the officers. They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out." Video, though shows the police were not surrounded.

Athough Spicuzza was placed on administrative leave, she, Pike and Katehi should be handed their pink slips. Moreover, the UC Davis incident should launch a system-wide review by the University of California to identify and stop similar administrative and policing policies statewide.

Positive action on California campuses would be a good start. But William Bratton’s Zero Tolerance policy would be well applied to authorities petty or large, who would so easily rule by brutality – at home or abroad.