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Let’s Be Careful Out There …

That was the signature line used by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus at the end of roll call in the old TV show, Hill Street Blues. It’s good advice.

When I’m working on a house I always have two pieces of safety gear on, wrap-around safety glasses and a hard hat. There are a lot of good reasons.

The glasses aren’t just about saw dust or metal chips from using tools, I use a lot of chemicals and don’t want them on my regular glasses, or in my eyes. Some of the things I use are caustic, and others are oily, but neither kind is anything you want to deal with. Even latex paint, especially the tiny splatters from using a roller, are not benign.

The hard hat is to protect my head. I’m bald, so if a board falls, or the guy helping me accidentally whacks me with hardwood closet rod, or galvanized pipe, it is going to open a gash that will bleed like crazy. There isn’t a lot of cushion between the skin and the bone on your skull, so the skin breaks easily and bleeds profusely. The hard hat stops that from happening.

Having watched what is going on in NYC, I think that both items would be a good idea for the people at Occupy Wall Street. I graduated from a police academy in New York State, and know what the procedures are for the use of force, specifically chemical weapons and the baton. The NYPD is not following the normal procedure, in fact, they are doing things that I was specifically taught not to do.

You do not spray Mace or pepper spray directly into anyone’s eyes. It isn’t necessary for the chemicals to be effective, and there is a risk of permanent damage to the eye. It is more effective to spray it on the clothes so it can’t be wiped off and the effect will be extended.

You do not hit anyone on the head with a police baton. The baton is more effectively used against soft tissue, and there is no risk of death. When hit on the head, the majority of people will be cut and bleed. A small group will actually be stunned, but that means they have suffered a concussion, and need medical help. An even smaller, but significant group can have an actual skull fracture, which may lead to death. The risk is not worth it.

If someone is hit on the head, you treat the bleeding like any other wound. Stop the bleeding and clean it up. You need experience to judge whether stitches are necessary. If the victim lost consciousness, for even a short time, get them to a hospital. There may be internal bleeding, which can have serious consequences if you wait too long. You need to monitor people who have had head injuries, and watch for signs of confusion or disorientation. The injuries are dangerous. You can get a hard hat for around $5 at a hardware store.

If you get sprayed or gassed and are wearing contact lenses, get them out of your eyes and throw them away. They will have absorbed some of the chemicals and can’t be cleaned. You should have your small bottle of sterile saline with you, and use it flush your eyes after removing the lenses.

If you encounter tear gas or Mace, they are actually acidic particles. Flush your eyes with a baking soda solution, and then water. The particles are heat activated, so don’t wash yourself or your clothes with hot water. Soap is a basic compound, which will neutralize the acid in the tear gas.

Pepper spray is tougher. It is oily and not water soluble, which is why you can’t get the ‘fire’ out of your mouth if you eat a hot pepper. Alcoholic beverages will work, but will probably result in an arrest for ‘an open alcohol container’, so baby shampoo in water to wash it off, followed by a plain water rinse.

A small container of sterile saline is a good way to help your tears finish the job.

The polycarbonate safety glasses are available for $5 in most hardware stores. I would advise against using the tinted versions, as the NYPD will probably claim they are a mask.

I am seriously upset with the conduct of the NYPD. They are not ‘supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and of the State of New York’. They are looking for a fight, and attempting to incite a riot. They are not keeping the peace, and rushing around dressed like ‘Imperial Storm Troopers’ doesn’t help their image.


1 ellroon { 10.15.11 at 11:09 am }

I’m sharing this on facebook. Excellent advise, Bryan!

2 Steve Bates { 10.15.11 at 12:15 pm }

Your list is exactly what we need in these troubled times, Bryan. I linked this post from the YDS. I can no longer demonstrate… when you can only walk a dozen steps, you can’t really march with protesters… but I’ll tell my friends who still can do so to read your post.

3 Bryan { 10.15.11 at 12:57 pm }

This is based on the instructions in the police academy when they told us why you don’t do these things. There is no exemption in New York Penal Law for using force, even for law enforcement, only defenses. To qualify for the defenses you have to follow the rules.

The procedure is to use the minimum level of force necessary to control the situation. The doctrine starts with the voice as a use of force, so this is a detailed procedure. This isn’t taught as some ‘feel good’ procedure, it is about officer safety. You are not supposed to do anything as an officer that escalates the violence in a situation; you are supposed to minimize it to protect yourself and your fellow officers. If you tried the stuff that the ‘white shirts’ are pulling in NYC on the Saturday night bar-closing crowd, you would have a riot, no matter what your jurisdiction.

I never thought it would be necessary in the United States to tell people how to protect themselves from the police, but it obviously is.

4 karmanot { 10.15.11 at 1:51 pm }

Thanks Bryan! We posted this in full over at our post in the hope that it may protect people in the honest pursue of protesting . Much appreciated. Mand T