To be clear, most of my interactions with Seattle police officers during the Occupy Seattle protests have been friendly, respectful, and professional, but last night... not so much.
When I asked an officer what his scary looking riot gun shot, he repeatedly responded "flowers." Ha, ha. And every time I struggled to get a close up shot of a gun (rain on the lens was fucking with my autofocus), another clown-cop, the appropriately named Officer Jokela kept jumping in the way, striking what he thought were comical poses.
Later (alas, after my video camera had apparently run out of power), when I told another officer that I was a reporter, and asked whether I was safe filming where I was, or whether the next time the pepper spray came out I would be sprayed along with the protesters, he laughed: "Stand there and you'll find out." Hey, thanks for the help, officer.
I guess I just don't get cop humor.
To be clear, whatever the circumstances, and whatever the law, last night Seattle police were assaulting civilians and laughing about it. And that's just not cool. Several of the victims I talked to said they were indiscriminately pepper sprayed with no verbal warning, with one woman describing the pain as like having "habanero pepper seeds rubbed on your eyeballs." And as Cienna reports, one US Coast Guard veteran complains that he was mocked by officers as he attempted to recover from his own assault, an incident that I believe I observed as I was calling in my final report from the scene. I didn't actually hear the exchange, but I can confirm that the officers were smiling and laughing.
So far, Seattle has escaped the worst kind of police abuses we've seen in NYC, Oakland and elsewhere, and most of the officers deserve some credit for the restraint they have shown, especially in the face of deliberate provocation on the part of a handful of "anarchists." But there are certainly some bad apples on the force who are just itching to lash out, and who seem to disturbingly enjoy their opportunities to do just that; it's something their commanding officers and more responsible colleagues might want to keep an eye on, because pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets may be nonlethal, but they are not flowers, and they are certainly no joke.
I've got no problem with officers darkly kibitzing amongst themselves if that's what it takes to relieve the tension. But if they continue to openly show disrespect for the citizens they serve, that attitude can't help but be returned.