Submit your own Neatorama post and vote for others' posts to earn NeatoPoints that you can redeem for T-shirts, hoodies and more over at the NeatoShop!

Canadian Man Got Pepper Sprayed in the Face for Asking US Border Agent to Say Please

Desiderio Fortunato is a stickler for courtesy and respect. But when the Canadian man asked a US Border agent to be polite and say "please," he got something unexpected: pepper spray to his face!

He said he was questioned by a border officer who demanded he turn off his car and, when asked to make the request more politely, threatened to spray him with his pepper gun if he did not comply.

``I just felt I should stand my ground about it. I should not be treated like that. No matter what kind of position you are in, if you want respect you have to show respect,'' he said Tuesday. ``I asked him three times and when I didn't turn the car off, because he didn't say please, he pepper sprayed me ... It was terrible. For half an hour or so I couldn't see anything.'' (Photo: Smaku [Flickr])

There's asking someone to say please and there's being an obnoxious twit and demanding that someone say please; I think this guy crossed that line. You don't mess around with agents that have firearms pointed at you, lethal or not.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Thanks to gentlemen like the commenter before me, this kind of unacceptable abuse is being more and more accepted and in the end we will all be scared to hold any argument lest be peppersprayed/arrested/strip searched. So much for our liberties.

If being an obnoxious twit was an excuse for having a highly painful substance sprayed all over your face, half of the world would go blind.

This is physical abuse and it's unacceptable. Period.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
He's lucky he didn't get pulled out of his car, handcuffed and arrested. And he deserved that even more than the pepper spray.

Dave is correct - how about if the agent tells you to turn your car off, turn the car off. It's not about liberties or respect. Did the driver think he was going to "win" the confrontation?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Another point for Dave. Christ, it's not "unacceptable abuse" and this sort of thing is not a "slippery slope" towards a total police state. Stop with the histrionics already. To ask once and get pepper sprayed is one thing; to repeatedly demand that the officer say "please" and refuse to follow his orders until he accedes to your demand is quite another.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
what a dip shit.

officer "stop your car"

idiot "say please"

officer "please stop your car"

idiot "you didn't say with sugar on top"

officer "there is sugar at the end of this tazer"

idiot "don't taze me bro!"
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I've been stopped while driving by some stupid, arrogant and down right idiotic cops in my day and I always bite my tongue, remain civil and most importantly DO WHAT THEY ASK. To do anything else makes you an even bigger idiot. At that point they have all the power. You can make your case later if circumstances should require it but in this instance, Desiderio Fortunato was completely wrong. He was just being a total jerk and is lucky he was only pepper sprayed.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
As Mr. Benjamin Franklin said:
"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security."

If you don't have the liberty to ask that someone be polite, whether they have a gun or not, you have lost.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"If you don’t have the liberty to ask that someone be polite, whether they have a gun or not, you have lost."

Please. They man was told, legally, to turn his car off. He was told, what, three times? And he didn't. He deserves to be pepper-sprayed just for being a dumbass.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Maybe I should become a police officer so I can order people to do whatever I want - oh, wait. It turns out that citizens aren't soldiers, and they're not obliged to follow orders from some high-school graduate with a taser and an attitude. In a democracy, the police serve at the pleasure of the civilians, not the other way around. Dave's way is the way of the sheepish holocaust victim - just because someone has a gun doesn't mean you shouldn't stand up to them.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
The reason a CBP Officer asks you to turn off your car is so you don't back over him while he is checking your trunk.

That being said, saying please does goes along way.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
These morons need to understand that they are the first representative of the US when one travels into the country, therefore that first impression needs to be polite and professional.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It sounds like most of the arguments for this guy getting what he "deserved" are based on what most of us understand about how power-hungry, disrespectful, and out of control cops can get.

If the guy could really have been called uncooperative or noncompliant or whatever at a reasonable order, the next step could conceivably have been to detain him or something. But pepper spray is violence, and I do think what seems to be a rise in instances where cops bring the violence when NOT under threat of violence is troubling, to say the least.

A populace that must behave with unerring deference out of justified fear of what authorities might do to them if they so much as verbally protest their situation is not living in a free society.

I already do this; most of us do. We defer to cops no matter how unfair we think the situation is because we are afraid of them, their capacity to abuse their power. That is not right.

I think the somewhat surly opinion that the guy got what was coming to him arises from a kind of anger and antipathy toward others not much different from what makes a lot of cops go into the business.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
My luck I'd be three cars back wondering what the hell the hold-up was while these two throw down in the middle of the road.
I wonder if it was posted "Please turn off your car.". Would that count? Maybe he didn't see the sign.
And how hard is it to say please. A two year old can say please....'course they usually get a cookie. Maybe the border guy just needed a cookie.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Sometimes when someone talks to you like you're a piece of $hit you just have to stand your ground, to protect your own psyche. It's an injustice to be wrongly treated like a terrorist, especially by an authority figure (and true terrorist like this border agent)

Also, all public servants who carry weapons should be held to much higher standards legally than the average citizen. The border dude should be fired and prosecuted.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
this cop and his supervisor should be fired. these cops are supposed to be professionals. being professional means treating people, even difficult people, with respect. one of the major problems with law enforcement is that they get para-militaristic training where everyone not in police uniform is treated "the enemy" and treated accordingly . well guess what? most people have nothing against cops, until they or there loved-ones or someone they know gets treated like dirt. it is cops like this that cause the general public to not only disrespect them, but to actively dislike them. basic rule: treat people like you'd like to be treated. if the cops want the public on their side they need to smile, be polite, say please and thank you. act like a professional. that goes a very long way. earn your over priced salaries!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Yes, the cop definitely overreacted. But I can't believe the gall of this idiot to DEMAND that the cop say "pretty please with sugar on top" before he'll follow the damn orders. It's just absurd. You're driving into another country and Border Patrol tells you to turn off your car, you TURN OFF YOUR DAMN CAR.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Rubbish. When someone comes into this country and refuses to obey the directions of a law enforcement officer, their supposed right to politeness (not in the Constitution) is superceded by 300m Americans' right to safety. And obeying the laws of the country which you are requesting to enter is no more trading liberty than stopping at stop signs is, so the Ben Franklin quote doesn't really apply. We're not talking temporary security.

This isn't some cop getting a hard-on by bossing around people while off duty. If you don't turn your car off, you threaten his safety as well as the safety of everyone else around. This jerk's ego does not guarantee him the the right to politeness. Would it be nice if border patrol agents always said "please"? Sure. But if they're tired or in a bad mood, that doesn't give you the right to break the law. His job is not to be a goodwill ambassador and hand out chocolates to all who come, but first and foremost to protect the citizens of the US and others who legally enter our country without such buffoonery.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Idiot or not, the border officer had no right to spray the canuck in the eyes with pepper spray. How was he threatening the safety of 300M citizens by refusing to turn off his engine before he was asked nicely?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I spent 4 days in western Canada last fall. I never had to get out of my car when I entered. I never saw one cop the whole 4 days. Canada has 1 cop for about every 8500 people. They also have a lot less crime than we do. When I came home the border cops were the biggest belligerent assholes I ever met. We have 1 cop for about every 360 people. I'm glad people are starting to "film" these assholes everywhere now. Maybe soon we will have a police force that's not a bunch of mindless turds.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It's common sense to comply with any violent scum-bag who threatens you with a weapon. That just doesn't change the fact that he's a scum-bag, though.
Remember, boy and girls, that The Man is not your friend. The Man is nobodies friend but The Mans. The Man is not here to protect you or pursue justice. The Man is here to keep you in line so you can sheared in an orderly fashion.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Dude's a douche. If you don't like the fact he didn't say please, turn off the car, get his badge number, and ask to speak with his supervisor. There, you could politely discuss the matter of politeness at the border. You could even write a stern letter.

If the officer is going to walk around the car, he could be in danger if the car were to suddenly move. Refusal to turn off the car, for whatever reason, could be interpreted as a potentially dangerous act.

Not saying they shouldn't be polite, just don't deliberately piss off someone who has weapons.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"It turns out that citizens aren’t soldiers, and they’re not obliged to follow orders from some high-school graduate with a taser and an attitude. In a democracy, the police serve at the pleasure of the civilians, not the other way around."

Actually, they are in many circumstances, crossing the border being one of those. And most cops these days have at least two years college and many college degrees. The pleasure of civilians - ha.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"just don’t deliberately piss off someone who has weapons." - i applied this pearl of wisdom only to encounters with psychos and criminals till now, not trained professionals. So, children, be VERY careful to never steal a parking spot from a policeman: it could be the last thing you do (according to ted)!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I've lived in the U.S. my entire life and have never had issues with police officers. I don't even know anyone who has ever had an issue with a police officer. Not hanging out with people who break the law probably helps. I find it hilarious that there are people who think you have some sort of a right to sit and argue with a cop. What an ineffective and ridiculous way to uphold law and order. A cop has to try and reason with you about why you should hand him your drivers license and registration while you argue that you don't like his tone? Wow. Report cops who are jerks. There are many avenues to try and right corruption and power-hungriness (newspapers, filing complaints, picketing, rallying people in your neighborhood...), but arguing with a cop over something like this is just petty and immature.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
If you want to interpret my comment that way, bradbury, you go right ahead.

In this case, the guy thought he`d start a pissing contest with someone who has a Homeland Security patch on his sleeve. It`s not their job to be polite - they`re not in customer service. Sure, it would be lovely if they were polite - I've met a few who were, but that's not their mandate.

You're not exactly living in tyranny if a border guard doesn't say "please" and "thank you".
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It's worth noting that he was refused entry after being questioned, meaning someone determined that there was a legal reason to refuse entry.

Maybe they thought his claim to be a "dance studio director" AND have a wife was suspect.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)

I'd like to state that you've misread the fact that he was not in the US at the moment, he was at the border. When you are at the border, you are neither in Canada or the US. At the border, you have no rights, so he was wrong to expect anything but to do what he was asked. It doesn't mater what direction you are going, when at the border you do as you’re told. I'm Canadian and I'd have to say this guy was in lala land surounded by birdys and dafadils and thinks that everyone should say "pretty please". It's bad enough people belive in an invisible space god.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
ted: you are completely missing the point. in my book (and country), a police officer is only allowed to draw a weapon if there is some kind of a threat. to piss off an officer of the law shouldn't entitle you to a beatdown, it gets you shouted at, fined and maybe in jail. in the free land I live in, there isn't such a thing as corporal punishment for being a douche, to be sentenced and executed by a mere police man. a normal person should know how to handle a conflict, let alone a well trained and armed cop.

and a tyranny isn't built on a few bad apples in the police force, it is based on people which defend or tolerate such slide-ups.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"Turn your car off, sir."
"Say please."
"(sigh) Please turn your car off, sir."
"Yes, thank you."

Problem solved. Traffic is often slow enough at border crossings, the officer has his priorities way out of order. Doing one's job must come before protecting one's pride, and how sad is it if being polite is a blow to one's pride? What a waste of time, and a POINTLESS inconvenience to everyone else waiting in line.
Anyone who says he deserved the pepperspray and detainment is a cold fucker.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I am a US citizen in a relationship with a Canadian. I cannot BEGIN to tell you how many times he has been needlessly harassed by border guards. These men and women seem to all have a chip on their shoulder. They are CONSTANTLY rude and obnoxious for the sake of sick enjoyment. I think this poor man got what I like to call a "traditional American greeting" most citizens we have a ridiculous sense of entitlement. And this poor man got the brunt end of some border ass hat.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Some of these clearly anarchistic comments are very disturbing.
I find it odd that folks who don't like authority at all are so ready to eat up this clearly one sided story feed to them by the media. No where in any story written about this has there been a CBP comment. Just the traveler's statement. I would bet there is a whole lot more to this story that has been reported.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"Please" implies that the officer is asking something that can be refused. You can't refuse that request. I'm surprised that no one else brought that up... And how is the officer going to safely get the man out of the car if he is refusing to turn it off? If the concern is a rolling car, and the man gets out while its on, there's no one in the car to make sure it doesn't roll. The officer used the least lethal option to get the person to comply, as he was not asking the man to do something, he was TELLING him to do something.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
In Canada, we have this little thing we do from time to time that's about as much fun as chewing glass. It's called crossing the border into the U.S. When entering another's country, you are respectful, polite, and execute the things you are asked to do immediately and properly. You are entering *their* country. If you want to enter their country, you have to jump through their hoops to do it.

I don't agree with fascist totalitarian regimes but this was a customs agent telling someone to shut their engine off. No sane person would try to play with them when they made that request. The standard response is muttering 'shit' under your breath and hoping they're nice enough to bring you a coffee while they dismantle your car.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
bradbury, did I miss your point? Perhaps you weren't clear enough. I simply took it as your deliberate distortion of my words into "every person who pisses off a police officer, for whatever reason, should be beaten severely".

I still stand by my original comment. Nobody in their right mind jokes about having a bomb at the airport.

blaze said it best. When you're crossing the border into another country, you're submitting yourself to the laws of that country. How many people has that border officer come into contact with that day? Sorry if he can't smile and say "please and thank you" to each of them. Sure, it would be lovely if he was polite, but that's not his job. If I were the guy in the car behind this, I wouldn't be blaming the officer for holding me up. I'd be blaming the guy and his warped sense of entitlement. It's not the first time he's caused trouble at the border (read the article).

My advice for border crossing: take off your sunglasses, don't smile too much, let each person in the car speak for themselves, and do what they frickin' tell you.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
OK, so if the bloke's got all his marbles and should have known better then perhaps he deserved it - not a point I'd care to concede, BUT...

What it's he's a bit odd?

Is it really acceptable to spray someone because they're a bit strange, or have a hang-up about people being polite? It's not as if there are really that many "normal" people out there. What if the next oddity that gets picked on is the one /you/ happen to have?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
ted: to announce a bomb at the airport makes you a possible suspect of a crime, being a stuck-up person doesn't. please, try not to mix up completely different situations, there are very important shades of grey everywhere in life. and i did never defend that idiots behaviour. be it the one in the car or the one with the weapon. both are clearly wrong. and you are too, if you try to take sides in this.

blaze: not that i am one to demand it, but our society, even yours is based on civilly, which works the following way: when i say "how are you", i don't want an answer and when i say "please step off my foot" i'm not giving a choice. i'm simply being civilized. politeness has no deeper semantic meaning it is simply a tool to maintain the illusion of us all getting along well. so if a policeman says "please", it doesn't stop being an order (be very careful to remember that!).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Actually the border control officer is the one at fault.

It is far easier to talk in a controlled manner to the public. Everyone is referred to as Sir or Ma'am, you ask don't demand and say please and thank you.

It is extraordinary how much grief security personnel can save them selves with these very simple behaviours.

It says some very bad things about the character of this officer that his first impulse is to assault the driver.

All he needed to do was say "Of course, you are quite right, could you please turn off your engine sir"

That's it. You really can manipulate people far more effectively with good manners and a calm demeanour than by coersion,threats and violence.

If for no other reason than to save yourself the friction of being investigated, or the hassle of the amount of paperwork this assault will entail.

I was trained in security work by an ex Australian SAS bloke, who believed if you even have to put your hands on the person you have lost.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I agree with Jen Diggity: There are procedures to follow if you feel you are being harassed by an officer.

You don't need to hash it out right there on the scene. First, comply. Then attempt rational discussion. If not satisfied, report it to his superiors, makes a paper trail, work with the organization in quesiton, and if need be, rally public support or the media. Document everything, be patient, focus on the greater good.

I'm guessing this case was a clash of two aggressive personalities.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I don't know if this has already been said. But everytime I go to Canada, I notice how the Canadian boarder agents are significantly nicer than the US ones. I've been insulted and scowled at by the US ones, and I'm a US citizen!!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Welcome to your country, the USA.
Must visitors be treated like this?
We found a weird robotism and desire to be offensive among your officials, and that was in 2000 at LA airport!
Since then airport officials have gone moron internationally, and I am in no hurry to visit the capital of official humourless-ness!
Enjoy the recession you are intensifying, suckers!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Bill, when I was passing through Heathrow in 2003, I encountered the same sort of attitude, but not quite as stern as passing through Detroit on the same trip. In Heathrow, although he was polite, the security guy got awfully close for comfort.

bradbury, I didn't say "announce that you have a bomb", I said "joking" about having a bomb. Even though it's said in a joking manner, airport security must take that as a serious threat. Even though the driver of the car only said "say, please", the security officer had to take that as a serious threat. For whatever reason, he was not complying with the order. This made his actions unpredictable. Although he may have over-reacted by using pepper spray, the border guard was doing his job.

Just like when a police officer says "put your hands where I can see them", you better put your hands where he (or she) can see them. Or would you say "Not until you say please"?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I am Canadian and I will avoid the US at all costs becuase of the border agents. A few years ago I was taking my brother to a course in the US. The border agents were rude, aggresive, unprofessional and dishonest.

I have known police officers (Canadian/American) but border guards are not the same. They suffer from a bloated sense of value and responsibility.

Treating everyone like an enemy and forcing them to adhere to strong arm tactics is the foundation for a police state.

I hope things change in the US of A. It is not like it once was.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)

Bravo, Sir! You hit it right on the head. Anytime a person needs to resort to force, then have lost. I have accomplished more and have had more fun accomplishing it by saying "please","thank you" and "excuse me" than would be had scaring people into submission. The gaurd is a moron and I resent his representing my country in such a manner. It appears he puts "being a tough guy" above his successful performance of his job duties. This is just one more step toward the revolution that is brewing in the States.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I was detained for about an hour in Toronto airport about 5 years ago on a business trip. After a thorough search and questioning, I asked why I had been detained. I was told that I didnt respond quickly enough to their routine questions. --We're even now Canada.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
The word "Please" comes from the phrase, "if it pleases you". Of course it is polite, but it is used for requesting things. It seems to me that the border agent did not want the man to turn off his engine only if it pleased him, but rather that he *must* turn off his engine. Grammatically speaking, the agent was correct in not using the word.

I don't know if pepper spray was the best solution, but there is not really an excuse for not following the legal orders given by a law enforcement officer.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I for one think this is wrong. People like that are giving us Americans a bad name. I'm sure the officer has a mom or dad that told him about respect. Canadians are also good business for our company's near the border and with our border patrol being rude because their heads are too far up their a$$es to say something as simple as please or thank you. I don't get it for one because with how the US is going down the drain economically we need all the business we can get. I think someone for got to take their happy pills... I think they need to pick better people for border patrol...people who are professional and respectful. It should be an honor to have that job and if your gonna be moody about it don't be a dumb moron... go back and finish school and become a wrestler or something to help control your anger. I for one don't like how the US is changing and if I was given the chance to move to Canada I'd do it in a heart beat. They are all nicer over there. I think the US has some studying to do... instead of pushing out our chests cause we can... tis lame... kinda like this whole ordeal...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Either way I would deem the Officer to be a jacka$s. This wasn't the first time the guy asked for a "please", so why the hell didn't the Officer suck it up and simply add one more syllable to his more than likely sharp demand.

I've dealt with the border Officers, they're unfair and degrading. Of course, my first experience with the US border Officers didn't turn out to be a good one. I sat in US Customs for a good four hours or more...waiting around for some complete jerk to finish "documenting me".

Just because some ignorant a$sholes got a job in the Enforcement field doesn't give them any right to treat us (Canadian OR American) like utter $hit. Mommy taught you respect, use it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
a border officers job is first off not to let the bad guys into the country. their job is not a fun one, and they do realize that their job puts them at a certain amount of risk. i doubt it was a matter of the officers principles that kept him from saying please. these men and women are taught to keep those situations in their control not only for their safety but for the safety of those around them. this man knew he would be getting on the officers nerves by asking him to say please- yes a please is always nice, but not required in their line of duty- if there was that much of a respect issue he should have calmly reached the officers supervisor afterwards, not hassled him while on duty and in a state of mind that is always on guard for danger and suspicious behaviour. and if youre thinking "saying please isn't suspicious behaviour", when you are standing there for hours dealing with that kind of stuff, anything out of the ordinary becomes suspicious, for safety reasons. for the officer to comply with what the traveler was asking of him would be to (at whatever length) give up his position of control, and it also adds suspicion to the mans character. im not defending the pepperspray- but im saying the media's story is one sided, and when you are entering another country you do what their officers ask you to. you dont try to stir things up, and those who think he was just in what he did gives themselves more entitlement than necessary in this case. im not saying this means im for oppression or whatever else the argument was, that assumption is a bit extreme. this is about him protecting your safety from what he saw as a potential threat. the officer was not threatening him to shut off the car with the pepper spray. he did not spray him after asking for a please. he sprayed him when he believed things were getting too far out of control, when the man was not doing what was asked of him. he was not insulting the man, he was not adding physical force, he was following procedure, and a mature and respectful adult would just use some common sense and comply. part of their job while questioning you is looking for psychological irregularities, that could mean youre hiding something or are lying. i laugh that people assume the life of a border security officer should mean having a nice light conversation before letting them into the country. so boohoo if they dont smile or say please. theyre not the welcome wagon.

ps i am canadian, and when i enter the states even if i get a nasty border guard i know i have nothing to hide, and if i just answer the questions and comply with what im being asked that theyll send me on my way. this man pushed it to an extreme (again not saying pepper spray was the answer), and as are all those shouting that rights and liberties have been violated.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 61 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"Canadian Man Got Pepper Sprayed in the Face for Asking US Border Agent to Say Please"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More