Use of pepper spray in policing: retrospective study of situational characteristics and implications for violent situations

J. Bertilsson, U. Petersson, P. J. Fredriksson, Måns Magnusson, P. A. Fransson

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Abstract

Pepper spray (OC) is a policing tool aimed to prevent or stop aggressive behavior by quickly and temporarily incapacitate without injuring. To date, few studies have investigated OC’s operational usefulness and limitations. OC reduced violent behavior in 93% of the 936 incidents investigated. However, the operative range was often <2 m and it took between 3 and 5 s of spraying before obtaining effect, partly owing to the difficulties of hitting a small, sometimes erratically moving target. Collateral hits were noted in 24% of the incidents, whereof 90% were other officers. Noteworthy, in 21% of incidents officers put themselves at large personal risk by using OC at close range against people armed with lethal weapons. Hence, OC emerges as a suitable tool for handling low threat situations but lacks key traits to ensure safe and efficient policing of high threat situations, e.g., handling armed assailants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-406
Number of pages16
JournalPolice Practice and Research
Volume18
Issue number4
Early online date2017 Feb 7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health

Free keywords

  • efficiency ratio
  • Oleoresin capsicum
  • pepper spray
  • policing
  • psychomotor effects

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