The New Jersey Attorney General’s “Use of Force Policy” allows the use of pepper spray “to protect (an officer), or a third party from unlawful force.” Campus Police officers, who follow these guidelines like all sworn New Jersey police officers, used this allowance in pepper spraying an allegedly drunken Jonathan Waltz, sophomore open options science major, in Campus Police headquarters on Sunday, Sept. 2.
While Campus Police officers have the right to use the force of pepper spray on those they deem a threat, they also have a responsibility to use discretion in their employment of that force.
According to Casey DeBlasio, public information officer for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Waltz was apprehended in a drunken state near Lot 17. He was taken to Campus Police headquarters after it was determined that Waltz should not be allowed to return home by himself.
Though the exact details are unknown because Waltz chose not to comment on the incident, it is known that Waltz became violent and assaulted an officer, causing Campus Police to pepper spray Waltz in the face.
The use of pepper spray in this situation constitutes a use of excessive force on Waltz, who surely could not have posed a serious enough threat to a number of trained Campus Police officers. It is also reveals that Campus Police officers lack the necessary discretion and responsibility to wield any force whatsoever.
The campus community and the administration should not condone such irresponsibility and incompetence on the part of our Campus Police officers. Waltz’s alleged actions were wrong, and more than anything, stupid. But it is impossible to argue that any action an allegedly drunken Waltz took could have ever posed enough of a threat to Campus Police officers in their own headquarters to warrant the use of an agent normally used on rioting crowds.
If trained Campus Police officers cannot defend themselves from a drunken 19-year-old college student in the middle of Campus Police headquarters without resorting to the use of pepper spray, perhaps our campus is even less safe than we think.