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The UC Davis footage shows two officers spraying students with the chemical agent as the crowd cries out, then a slight delay before police start hauling off some of those seated while other protesters cough violently and try to crawl away.

The spray the officers used ranked about halfway between the highest and lowest concentrations of the commercially available substance.

Nine UC Davis students hit by pepper spray were treated, two were taken to hospitals and later released, university officials said. Ten people were arrested.

Since the video began circulating Friday night, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said she has been inundated with calls from alumni, students and faculty to speed up an investigation. Students and faculty have called for her resignation.

“I’m here to apologize,” she told the crowd. “I really feel horrible for what happened on Friday.”

The spraying has reverberated far beyond the university, spawning a debate about the officers’ use of force.

Decisions on using pepper spray range by department and depends largely on the community and the police chief, Klinger said.

Klinger said the officers could have turned to other methods, such as a so-called pain compliance hold, but that would bring its own set of complications. A protester could receive a broken arm, he said, or an officer could pull a muscle.

Charles J. Key, a former lieutenant with the Baltimore Police Department who wrote the department’s use-of-force manual, said that officers were clearly within their rights to use it.

After reviewing the footage, Key said he observed at least two cases of protesters actively resisting police. In one, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques, he said.

“What I’m looking at is fairly standard police procedure,” Key said.

The federal courts have ruled on such cases. At the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers courts in nine western states, the cases have centered on whether or not the protesters were involved in what is called “active resistance.”

The court used the term in considering a case about another highly circulated video of a group of passive demonstrators being swabbed with pepper spray in 1997. The protesters had linked arms on the floor of a California congressman’s office to protest the logging of old-growth redwood trees on California’s North Coast.

Because demonstrators were using a metal sleeve to prevent the county sheriff’s office from separating them, attorneys argued the protestors’ “active resistance” left officers no other way to disperse them than dabbing their eyelids with Q-tips soaked in pepper spray, said Jim Wheaton, an attorney who assisted in the prosecution of the civil case.

The 9th Circuit ruled that the protesters weren’t in “active resistance,” and because they were sitting peacefully, the use of pepper spray was excessive.

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