Sep 262011
 
 September 26, 2011  Misc

I didn’t expect to be blogging about the Occupy Wall St. protests, but here I am doing exactly that, because the privacy – and perhaps safety – of a police officer is involved.

Civil libertarians are understandably appalled by footage from the protest this past weekend showing a police officer reaching over a restraining net to pepper-spray protesters.

If you haven’t seen the video, you can see it here:

The officer involved in the spraying was subsequently named on Twitter, and some of his details and relatives’ names were posted on Pastebin.

Whether the identification is correct or not, I cannot be sure, although given available video and the closeup of the badge in a photo taken at the scene, it seems like an understandable identification.  And while I am unhappy that his relatives’ names may have been posted, the information posted about him looks like it was obtained from publicly available records – meaning that some of the information is probably incorrect, anyway.

The more worrying problem I have right now is a second photo – one that has been identified as being the same officer, moments after the spraying.

I do not think the officer in the second photo is the same officer seen in the video. The officer in the video is wearing a short-sleeved shirt open at the throat and he’s carrying papers – papers that show up in other photos and video footage of him. The officer in the second photo is wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a tie, the ribbons on his badge appear different (although resolution is poor), he looks younger, and there’s no evidence he’s carrying any papers.

The photo of the second officer – who may have been erroneously identified as the pepper-sprayer – may lead to his identification and public naming or revelation of his details. It may place him in danger by those who wish to retaliate for the outrageous spraying of nonviolent protestors.

I do not know what the second officer did or did not do to protestors. But I do know that claims that he is the pepper sprayer are not consistent with other photographic and video footage.

We need to be very careful about mob mentality and not just repeat claims without doing some fact-checking.

Could I be wrong? Sure.  But whose error would be worse? Mine in saying “It’s probably not him,” or yours if you name and expose a police officer who did nothing wrong?

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