Pepper spray is all the rage these days, with law enforcers wielding it against protesters from downtown Manhattan to UC Davis, where video of a campus cop nonchalantly spraying a group of peaceful demonstrators has sparked widespread outrage. But one of the modern pepper spray's developers says it wasn't supposed to be this way, and he's rather appalled at his weapon's ubiquitous use against non-violent protesters.
Kamran Loghman, who helped develop pepper spray into a weapons-grade material with the FBI in the '80s, tells the Times the UC Davis incident was not what he had in mind. It also violates most police departments' "use-of-force manuals," which "generally advise that pepper spray is appropriate only if a person is physically threatening a police officer or another person." Loghman declares, "I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents." Indeed, a three months-pregnant protester in Seattle had a miscarriage after being pepper sprayed (and punched) by cops.
"What makes this so oddly interesting is that those officers don’t look like the Chicago police in 1968," Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, tells the Times. "It's as if they were called because someone was sunbathing naked on the quad. All of these contradictions are jammed into that little video, where we have this casual disenfranchising of rights, but it is a new era, where pepper spray is used as opposed to batons and guns."
It's also an era in which a striking image or video can immediately become a widespread Internet meme, to the delight of millions of shiftless office workers. Know Your Meme has the most extensive collection of Photoshopped images of the pepper spray cop, who's been identified as one Lt. John Pike. The joke has jumped the shark into white noise at this point, but a few of the doctored images are still good for a laugh. Of course, you know who isn't amused by Pike's sudden, effortless Internet infamy? Hitler.