To Protect and To Serve Whom, Exactly?

Posted on December 7, 2011 by


By: Hanna Yi


“As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice.”


“To protect the innocent,” is what’s written in the Police Creed. And yet on November 18, 2011, an act of shame and disbelief left a shocking imprint on the University of California, Davis, students, faculty, and community members.

On Friday, members of the university gathered around the UC Campus in support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

The UC Chancellor, Linda Katehi, requested for the campus police to move in to clear out the encampment.  About a dozen students sat on the path with their arms interlocked and showed no signs of violent behavior.  Most of the protestors had their heads down while a police officer walked in front of the students and  mercilessly started dousing their faces with pepper spray—not once, but several times.


The incident is shown on a chilling 8-minute clip recorded by a student, which indisputably proves that the students were not showing aggressive behavior towards any of the law enforcement officials.  “I was shocked,” Sophia Kamran, one of the protesters subjected to the spray, said Saturday. “When students are sitting on the ground and no way of moving to be violent, being totally peaceful, I don’t understand the use of pepper spray against them” she reported to CNN.


Spectators are outraged by Friday’s event and have requested for Chancellor Katehi to step down due to the lack of control on her campus and exhibiting failure of leadership.

While many might wonder on the police’s involvement during the protest and the reason behind the use of pepper spray, others are wondering how police officers that have taken the oath to protect and to serve the innocent, have done the exact opposite? And yes, the campus chief and two officers have been put on administrative leave but the main issue here is the aggressive force being used with the campus police against the students. 

Police officers hold greater authority than the civilians to protect and to serve the innocence and yet, they abuse it with great power.  Where do we draw the line on police brutality?