Police and Political Turmoil
Aaron Osowski

Whether it is the video from Occupy Oakland of Iraq War Veteran Scott Olsen being struck by a police teargas canister or a California officer pepper spraying students at point-blank range, controversy over the recent tactics used by law enforcement has spread through the media.
There has been increasing talk that police brutality is on the rise, and many see it as excessive repression of protestors who are using solely nonviolent means. After the recent raid of the Occupy Philadelphia encampment, retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis expressed his discontent with current law enforcement officials.

“It’s a travesty of democracy, the way the police are totally suppressing the people’s right to assemble and to protest,” Lewis said. “I joined the force to protect people’s rights to assemble and protest, not to squash them.”
Recall petitioners are legally allowed to set up on public sidewalks near private businesses.
Photo by Nate Enwald.​

In an effort to gauge local law enforcement’s feelings of the current political unrest, some of which has spread to Stevens Point, The Pointer sat down with Stevens Point Police Sergeant Tim Davy to talk about some hot-button issues, as well as see what has been happening locally.
Q: What is Stevens Point law on dealing with nonviolent protests? In the city’s view, when do protestors take it too far and where are they allowed to occupy?
A: “Sometimes it is a real grey area. It is a discretionary type of thing … The last one of any substance was the folks who wanted to have the community garden. That was one of those things that is ‘spirit of the law versus letter of the law, let’s just wait and see how this runs its course.’ That, I think, was handled pretty well because the vast majority of people who were involved in it, from the folks running the community garden, they wanted to get their word out, and they succeeded in doing that.”
Q: What issues have local police been dealing with recently?
A: “Right now, one of the things we’re keeping an eye on is the Walker stuff that’s going on. That’s popped up all over the place and we have a lot of people calling to complain. We have the Walker people calling to complain about the people complaining. That’s where we find ourselves in law enforcement frequently: in the middle.
I look at what’s going on in New York, and I look at the cops that I know have nothing to do with that, and they’re right in the middle of it. The Wall Street people are at home, they’re in vacation in Barbados. They’re not worried about it. You have the people occupying the bridge and getting their word out and law enforcement is on the front lines, and I think it kind of stinks sometimes. Now, make no mistake, we know that going in—I’m not looking for pity there; no one put a gun to our heads and told us to be cops. But the same thing with the Walker thing right now, you have both sides chirping at us saying, ‘Do something about this.’”
Q: In what situations are police allowed to use things like pepper spray?
A: “Pepper spray and Tasers are just one step below deadly force. I’ve never used either one. You have to look at it individually. The officer that uses it, it’s usually with someone who’s combative, and that was the big uproar with [UC] Davis. … One of the things about that is that people talked about outrage with that, and I thought that was a little strong. See, when I was growing up, it was Kent State and Jackson State with people getting killed. [Using pepper spray] is a discretionary judgment call on the officer itself.
“There’s going to be a whole generation of cops coming up that hopefully are going to deal with not only concealed carry but things like passive resistance. This isn’t new … the ‘60s and ‘70s kind of kicked this off. The ‘60s and ‘70s were a volatile time and I’ve got to tell you, the cops really weren’t prepared for it. I think, more and more, we’ve become more prepared, but I think we’ve got a long way to go.”