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The Roosevelt Police Department has decided that officers who used pepper spray and batons on fans dancing at a high school football game acted within state law and departmental policy. But family of those sprayed don't see why the use of force was necessary.
Jessica Rasmussen went to the Oct. 20 game to support her boyfriend who is a senior at Union along with about 20 of his family members. Rasmussen said about 10 or so of his male relatives were the ones who decided to perform the ceremonial Polynesian dance, called Haka, for him and the rest of the players.
Rasmussen said she doesn't agree with how police handled the issue and thinks they need to know what they did was wrong.
"They didn't just get the players, they got innocent people that weren't involved in the situation, Rasmussen said. "It makes me upset."
The dancing group was blocking an exit. The two officers and some school officials attempted to clear the exit by asking the dancers to move, but it did not work.
That's when the police used their weapons.
Officers gave no advance warning before using the pepper spray or batons. Rasmussen said the two officers called for the dancers to make a hole and then started pepper-spraying them.
Several bystanders were also were hit by the pepper spray, including a 4-year-old child, a disabled person and an elderly woman, Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said there was another exit across the field for people to leave the stadium, and it was evident on the video players and fans were OK with the dance.
"Nobody was saying we don't want them to do it. People who wanted to leave left," Rasmussen said.
Much of the incident was caught on video, which has received nearly 2 million views on YouTube.
It wasn't until several days later that police called the family of those affected, explaining how the whole situation had gotten out of hand.
"They called five days later apologizing," Rasmussen said, adding she was at the family's home during the call. "I don't think [police] thought it was going to get this big."
In its decision released Wednesday, the Roosevelt Police Department acknowledged the officers could have chosen to use "alternative methods of keeping the peace and security for all present," but it was the "totality of the circumstances of that evening" that indicated the officers acted within policy.
Rasmussen said it was also within the group's right to do the dance. The police department said it would have been advisable if the participants had notified officers in advance of the dance.
The department is reviewing its protocols to make sure they are in compliance with all applicable laws.
Roosevelt officers will participate in training that will address cultural diversity and customs.
The Roosevelt City Council, which met Tuesday night, said it was "confident" the department's decision to provide the cultural training will prevent any potential future incidents.