'Pepper spray' officer named by Occupy Wall Street activists

Filed Under: Law & order, Privacy

A senior officer with the New York Police Department has been named online by activists associated with the Occupy Wall Street activists, in connection with the controversial use of pepper spray against a group of female protesters.

On Saturday, in an incident captured on video, a small group of seemingly peaceful protestors were said to have been doused with pepper spray by a uniformed officer.

Warning: Some readers may find the following video upsetting.

Even some of the police officers seen in the video seem shocked by the use of pepper spray.

Now, after slow motion examination of the video, the Anonymous group has published what it claims to be the spraying police officer's personal information - including phone numbers, addresses, and the names of relatives.

It is claimed that the officer was identified by online supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement after his badge was enlarged from a photograph taken at the scene.

Alleged details of police officer

Clearly, feelings are running pretty high over this incident, and if police officers acted without provocation appropriate steps should be taken. If a police officer is guilty of an offence then obviously he should be punished.

But it feels very wrong to me to name a man who we have to assume is innocent until proven guilty, and especially dangerous to make public his address and the details of his family.

With feelings running high, it is easy to imagine how innocent parties might be hurt by such details being made public.

Anonymous is no stranger to releasing personal information of individuals in positions of authority. For instance, last month it released partially nude photographs of a man said to be Linton Johnson, the chief spokesperson for the San Francisco's BART, as well as names, postal addresses and email addresses of officers.

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37 Responses to 'Pepper spray' officer named by Occupy Wall Street activists

  1. Richard Fairthorne · 1125 days ago

    Graham, it is perfectly normal in the US for the police to name suspects who have been accused of crimes. If you don't feel this practice is acceptable, then you should be criticizing the law, not an anonymous group that is acting within it.

    • Clashguy · 1125 days ago

      But does law enforcement publish the address, phone numbers, and names of relatives?

      • artfrankmiami · 1122 days ago

        Back in the old days of "Stop or I'll Shoot!", they would publish the alleged criminal's address, but not anymore. I couldn't even tell who fired off the pepper spray.

    • artfrankmiami · 1122 days ago

      but it's ok for the anonymous group to break the law by hacking the system and publishing the guy's name?

      The guy who did this is a douche and should be arrested, but his family should not be exposed because of his misdeeds. He is indeed a bully, whomever it was. But be in the policeman's shoes, he has a job where at any time of day, he could be killed. It's not an excuse and there was no danger in this case, but I have seen officer's overreact when I approached them when I was the one who made the call. Be polite and respectful, it always works.

      • Babu · 1038 days ago

        "Be polite and respectful, it always works. "

        Except it obviously doesn't.

  2. DaveyH · 1125 days ago

    Yeah, post the details of the officer, and publish the details of everyone else in the video.

  3. I don't think this is bad. There name is on their badge for a reason.

    And I didn't see the officer give any assumption of innocence to the girls.

    It looks down right malicious.

    If you are going to be a cop you have to understand that it will entail extra scrutiny.

    They are compensated VERY well for the job.

    • Richard · 1124 days ago

      What fantasy world do you live in? Police officers risk their lives for you for LOW pay.

      • ultranorthwest · 1124 days ago

        i call bullshit. white collar cops are not being paid anywhere close to minimum wage.

        furthermore, this video, and others, would be sufficient proof to convict the Senior Officer if he were ever tried in a fair court of law.

        i think he should have thought twice before he abused the authority vested in him by the citizens of the us to protect citizens of the us, in such a disgusting manner. this was not protection, it was obviously an attack, and did not inspire any serious afterthought, as was illustrated by the picture 7/8 of the way down the page, in the link below.

        play with fire, you're gonna get burned. my dad always told me, if you deserve the beating that's coming to you, you can be a coward, or you can take it like you earned it.
        https://occupywallst.org/

    • Asaf · 1123 days ago

      All true up until "They are compensated VERY well for the job".
      AND mind you, the name on the badge is their First & Last name ONLY.
      Nothing personal or revealing not their relatives names.

      The goal of the badge with the name is that you could file a complaint against the officer if you think he did something wrong or actually thank him if he helped you.
      (Of course there are other practical & psychological reasons)

      Annon misused the information they had and are now just like any other news agency out there, accusing judging and publishing everything they can about someone without knowing the facts.

  4. ... · 1125 days ago

    Playing Devil's advocate.
    Most officers are rarely, if ever, punished for their actions by the police department or government in general. Perhaps dox'ing them will make them think twice before engaging in questionable actions. Also consider that citizens are rarely, if ever, considered "innocent until proven guilty" for a number of police actions.

    • Here are two scenes.

      In scene one you have what happened here. There is a protest going on, somebody is recording the events, and... a police officer assaults some of the protestors.

      In scene two you have a Latin-American being discriminated against by a police "officer". There are no cameras, no protest and the Latin-American knows that prosecution will not prevent the next officer from being a meanie. This discrimination is probably not physical painful for the victim.

      Police officers get away with the latter all the time. It is a shame but it happens. A police officer will not get away from this crime. Attacking protesters is considered a heinous crime in America. Americans consider Freedom of Speech to be a holy rite. Something that everybody but the Ku Klux Klan should have. The event has raised some publicity so a skilled prosecutor will likely make him/herself available to the victims.

      There is a second and quite simple argument against your devil's advocacy. Why now? Why can't this information be withheld until the justice system has failed?

      • Richard · 1124 days ago

        So we are free, unless you don't like us? I am not a supporter of the KKK, but I am also not a supporter of this group. So, under your rules, I would say "everyone has freedom of speech except Occupy Wall Street. I love how "freedom" lovers only think their views are free.

    • Bartosz Leper · 1124 days ago

      Oh, really? Would you say the same if your got doxed for whatever stupid thing your relative did?

    • Bob · 1124 days ago

      I find it hard to feel any pity for this officer after seeing his actions. He should indeed be named and shamed and prosecuted to the full extent of the law BUT if past experience is anything to go by he would just have been "internally disciplined" and no one would know what happened. Only prominent cases that get into the press seem to get results.

      I don't see any advantage in naming relatives or his home address but having watched the video there is still a part of me that wants to see him suffer, and if it means he now has to spend money moving house, I find it hard to feel pity. Maybe the shame he will feel as a result of his family's disapproval and annoyance will have more impact than anything else.

  5. I do understand your objections to publishing the names of relatives, Graham. But at the same time I see a deep and bitter irony in the fact that you need to warn viewers of watching what the police officr does in the film, only to claim that you assume he is innocent!

    • Babu · 1038 days ago

      No. He clearly stated "Warning: Some readers may find the following video upsetting." There were screaming women lying helplessly on the ground after being pepper-sprayed. That is the upsetting content. He didn't say anything in the warning about the alleged crime.

      Thanks for trying though.

  6. rachel · 1125 days ago

    yes the info should be published! the police are no longer here to serve and protect they now harrass and humiliate! they are here to do public service and and do not have the right to remain private! if the police are doing their job as they should there is no reason to remain unonamous. if they are acting in an inexcusable manner than they should be put on blast! let the world see them as they are!

  7. Bruce · 1125 days ago

    I'm a teacher in Florida, which has very liberal public information laws. A couple years ago, an insurance agent went to the school board and asked for all the public information on all school board employees, and that information would include the names, ages, addresses, and phone numbers of all teachers, plus that information for all people included on the teachers' health insurance--including children. The school board refused to provide the information (saying it was too much), so the man took them to court, and he won. Anyone can go to the school board office and get my home address, phone number and the names and ages of my children. It's public information, and there's nothing I can do about it.

    In Florida, even all my emails from my work email account are public information.

    Yet, in Florida, the personal information of police officers and firefighters is protected. And the information for their families is also protected. So, a teacher who happens to be married to a police officer is protected from a public information request related to teachers, because giving that information would necessarily reveal the information on the police officer.

    So, what are the laws in New York? Was this public information available to Occupy Wall Street?

    • millcenter · 1123 days ago

      In Nevada all public employees and police are able to be found on line. If you know the name and the municipality worked for you can find all public information,including salary and overtime. Google maps will help you locate where they live and how much was paid for their house. If you aren't scared by that much information I am.

  8. Clashguy · 1125 days ago

    Apparently only anonymous is allowed to remain anonymous, everyone else be damned.

    So maybe the police officer has a reason to have his information published, but why bring in the relatives? What did they have to do with any of this?

  9. carson24 · 1125 days ago

    Police officers are not above the law or immune to being named by the media, many peoples details are published in relation to crimes whether they comminted them or not, why should the police be treated any differently?

  10. zan · 1124 days ago

    Because they put on a uniform and a badge didn't make them any less of a criminal when they stepped outside of the law and committed assault. It made them twice as accountable in the eyes of the law. Their actions are undeniable and deplorable. Their personal information should be published as anyone else's.

  11. My problem with this is the publishing of relatives names as they had absolutely nothing to do with what happened. Citizens are not afforded anonymity when they are accused of crimes and are sometimes even hounded by the press even after they are found innocent. I don't really agree with it either way but I do believe that it should be the same for any person regardless.

  12. Frank Johannson · 1124 days ago

    And Richard Fairthorne is an idiot. Police can raid a house and seize property, guess I can do the same then? Police release the names of those being charged after an investigation and considering the law and prosecution options. This was an anonymous group releasing his details and his family. Hardly the same thing.

  13. akageorge · 1124 days ago

    The officer? Fine. Especially if the photos and videos I've seen match up and this is truly the guy -- which it appears the Occupy Wall Street member who released the photos was quite sure of.

    But his family and home address? Leave those out of it, if you have any decency at all. Which it appears Anonymous does not.

  14. Mrs. W · 1124 days ago

    I particularly take issue with the disclosure of the details of this man's family. Speaking as a wife myself, I have no control over my husband's actions. The officer's children, if he has any, have even less influence. Why should they be punished? Shunning the entire family is a really archaic way of doing things. I thought we'd gotten past that as a society.

    If my husband did something like this, I'd think real hard about the kind of man I married, and whether I wanted to remain married to him, but that's a decision for the officer's wife to make. Give her the space to think about it.

    Once again, we have Anonymous treating people as mere means to ends and not ends in themselves. I don't understand how an organization can repeatedly violate fundamental ethical principles and still call themselves ethical. That they can do things like this and still have the audacity to place themselves on higher moral ground than a police officer who maces people who didn't do anything either boggles the mind.

  15. Adey Jonston · 1124 days ago

    Maybe the officer and his colleagues will consider the repercussions of suppressing people's right to protest.

  16. deja vu · 1124 days ago

    The NYPD has already exonerated the officer in question, despite the evidence. They decided that his actions were "appropriate" and followed procedure. When the police violate their oaths to protect the citizens they ostensibly serve, it makes sense to shame them publicly.

    Those who condemn the doxing are weighing a possible result of violence heavier than *actual violent acts*.

    It simply betrays how deeply they have succumbed to they post-9/11 authoritarian mindset.

  17. Asaf · 1123 days ago

    There's a huge difference between knowing someones first and last name (Officer badge) and releasing EVERY possible detail about his family and personal life.

    Besides, even though it's wrong to pepper innocent people without provocation and it's actually the same as a physical assault there is STILL A LONG WAY between THAT and "ATROCITIES".
    Really it's an atrocitie? Do you even know what that means?
    People who claim to be (or actually are, I couldn't care less) from Annon seem to only view their side and think of their own goals and motives and everyone else is fair game.

  18. millcenter · 1123 days ago

    The poster of the video may be in trouble with the police. In many states it is illegal to video tape or record a cop. A person in Illinois got nailed for that about a year ago. Apparently whereas they can and do film all stops, it is a major felony to record them.

    • vallor · 1123 days ago

      Wrong. There are already successful appeal decisions in district appellate courts that taking video of officer's actions is a 1st Amendment right.

  19. Gary Rod · 1123 days ago

    That was an absolutely hilarious video! Sometimes I really need humor like this injected into a stressful workday. Watching this short video, none of us knows what precipitated the cops' actions. So many factors are left out of the article, that there's no use, at this point, in condemning anyone. For instance, we don't know if those girls refused dispersal orders, or if the situation was escalating to dangerous levels; neither the video nor the article answers these questions.
    But those dumb chicks wah-wahing over the spraying...that is priceless!

    • lbarnett · 1104 days ago

      No one in NY State has an expectation of privacy on a public street.

  20. Darrin W.L. · 1115 days ago

    Maybe, it is permissable to release his contact info, as he is not a Citizen.

    Not once he wears the badge, straps the weapon and walks the street.

    He is SUPPOSED to stand for something. Law. And maybe a little Justice.

    But when your PROFESSION is the law, and you ABUSE said law,
    on just what premise does such an offender earn the RIGHT of
    PRIVACY?

    You abuse your authority, you lose your authority.

  21. Babu · 1038 days ago

    Just for the record, Anonymous didn't do anything harmful. Whether or not the information was leaked is trivial. Every human being has the power of self control, and we can all choose whether or not to take action. Anonymous revealed information so that people are aware of the perpetrators. This is not unlike the media reporting on news. The only difference is that the corporate media does not find it in their best interest to report on such stories to the extent that is necessary.

    EVERYONE must be held accountable for their actions. That includes OWS and Police.

    If someone is stupid enough to take that information and harm the police officer's family, they will be dealt with through the criminal justice system. And if you think it is unfair to the officer, then you better go back in time and strongly advise him not to act the fool when there are cameras everywhere.

    This is the 21st century. Nothing you do is unnoticed. There is no such thing as privacy. If you can not hold yourself accountable for your own actions, then there are millions of people out there ready to condemn you before they even know the facts. If you are oblivious to this atmosphere, then you clearly haven't been paying attention.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.