Guardian Self Defense and Security Blog

Pepper spray effectiveness and safety studied


Pepper spray has been in the news far too often recently for ALL THE WRONG REASONS. Media reports resulting from the use of pepper spray during Occupy Protests have painted a negative and inaccurate picture about pepper spray, the effects, and safety. Unfortunately, perception is very seldom reality as is the case here. The fact is the the use of pepper spray or oleoresin capsicum (OC), is extremely safe and effective.

Pepper spray or oleoresin capsicum (OC) has been used for decades by law enforcement professionals to help subdue and arrest dangerous, uncooperative, violent and combative subjects. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, points to the effectiveness and safety of pepper spray.

The study looked at officer and suspect injuries in three North Carolina police jurisdictions before and after pepper spray was introduced. Here is a brief summary of the findings.

What did the researchers find?

The North Carolina study found that the number of injuries to police officers and suspects declined after pepper spray was introduced. Complaints that the police used excessive force also declined. Officer injuries. In Charlotte, monthly counts of injured officers declined steadily from 1991 to 1998. The monthly count of injured State Highway Patrol officers shows a substantial decline that corresponds with the implementation of pepper spray.

Suspect injuries. Monthly counts of suspects injured by CMPD officers began falling after the introduction of pepper spray. Excessive force complaints. Ninety-four excessive force complaints were filed against State Highway Patrol officers from 1975 to 1998, peaking in 1992--the year before pepper spray was issued. Complaints dropped sharply after the introduction of pepper spray.

The study provided results that supported the general belief that the use of pepper spray will reduce injuries to police officers and suspects and excessive force complaints against police.

Source: “An Evaluation of Oleoresin Capsicum (O.C.) Use by Law Enforcement Agencies: Impact on Injuries to Officers and Suspects,” by J. Michael Bowling and Monica Gaines, was supported by NIJ under award number 1997–LB–VX–K018.

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