Wall Street cop faces probe over pepper spray

Police stand guard against demonstrators opposed to corporate profits on Wall Street during a march in the Financial District on September 26, 2011 New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP )
As protesters cry foul over the NYPD's violent acts perpetrated at Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, the cop that infamously sprayed down a group of women in Manhattan last week with mace will become the subject of an internal investigation.

In the days since NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna released pepper spray on a group of female demonstrators rallying against big banks last Saturday, at least two videos of the incident have surfaced to the Internet. The victims have spoken out against the officer and one of those recordings has managed to garner over a million hits on YouTube in mere days. As a result of the outrage, New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond W Kelly said on Wednesday that the Internal Affairs Bureau would begin a probe to investigate Officer Bologna and his actions during the protest.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Kelly said, “I don’t know what precipitated that specific incident,” but said he would look into the officer’s conduct. Bologna, a long time veteran of the force, formerly oversaw the First Precinct of New York City and is now a member of their counterterrorism unit.

While acknowledging that an investigation would begin, Kelly was not quick to condone Bologna for his actions. The commissioner said that some protesters had behaved in “tumultuous conduct” with the intent of blocking traffic during their demonstrations. The New York Times reports that the NYPD’s Patrol Guide suggests pepper spray should be mainly used on suspects resisting arrest or for personal protection, though deployment during “disorder control” is also a reason to use it.

The victims of Bologna’s outbursts feel like the officer’s actions were uncalled for, however. Speaking to RT on Wednesday, Chelsea Elliott of Brooklyn said she was completely thrown off by the unprovoked assault.

“It took about three seconds for it to register what had happened,” Elliott told RT. “At that moment, my mind kind of went blank. I was just so confused as to why. I just fell to the ground.”

Some of the NYPD, however, say that Bologna was simply looking out for his fellow man.

"Deputy Inspector Bologna’s actions that day were motivated by his concern for the safety of officers under his command and the safety of the public," adds Inspector Roy T Richter of the NYPD Captains Endowment Fund at yesterday’s briefing. "The limited use of pepper spray effectively restored order without any escalation of force or serious injury to either demonstrator or police officer."

To the Daily News, Commissioner Kelly appeared much more in favor of Bologna than the protestors, and as he’ll tell you, just because his actions were caught on video doesn’t mean that the online audience saw the whole story.

"In my experience, proponents of a certain position would show you just what they want to show you," says Kelly. "Hopefully, [probers] will look at the totality of the information that they will gather."

Two videos have received the most notoriety since the incident. The first to surface shows Kelly approaching a group of demonstrators, including Elliott, macing them without provocation and then walking away. In the aftermath of that posting, another YouTube user has uploaded a video supposedly taken moments later in which Bologna approaches fleeing demonstrators and a member of the press and takes aim again.

In response to the videos, hacktivists with Anonymous have published personal information pertaining to Bologna to the Internet, including his home address and phone number.

“As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barberically [sic] pepper spray wildly into the group of kettled women,” reads a note posted on September 26 by an online user aligned to Anonymous. “We were shocked and disgusted by your behavior. You know who the innocent women were, now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!”

Roy Richter added in his statement yesterday that “Deputy Inspector Bologna will cooperate with whatever investigative body the police commissioner designates to perform this review.”

The Civilian Complaint Review Board acknowledged that they are conducting an investigation of their own in addition to the probe being carried out internally.

Protests, now in their second week, continue in Lower Manhattan. Other demonstrations have spread to large cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and Boulder and are being planned in dozens more.