It was supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to police having to seriously injury someone. Instead, capsicum spray is regularly used instead of
When pepper spray became a mainstream law enforcement tool in the 1990s, it was hailed as a relatively peaceful alternative to harsh physical violence.
But as demonstrated by the routine spraying of Occupy Wall Street activists, culminating in the horrific assault at the University of California, Davis, pepper spray can too easily become a tool of first and excessive resort…
Like pepper sprays, Tasers were supposed to be tools of intermediate physical force, an alternative to hitting a resisting suspect with batons or grappling them to the ground. But Tasers also became alternatives to less-violent tactics and were used in situations where suspects had not physically resisted arrest.
Rather than talking, police too often go straight to the electricity — and the same may also happen with pepper spray.
The reason is obvious, according to Ana Yáñez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition:
“When you have something that is readily available to you, something that’s on your belt like pepper spray, and you have a confrontation in front of you — the first thing you’re going to do, because you’re human, is use whatever is right there… All of the training that you might use, anything that allows you to use your other skills, goes out the door. The first thing you do is say, ‘I’m going to pepper-spray that kid.’ That’s a natural response.”
The studies discussed in the article are worth a look.
I wonder whether it’s just that O/C spray and tasers give police a greater sense of authority, a greater sense of power, and that makes them more assertive and aggressive, escalating confrontations. There’s also the fact that both O/C spray and tasers are extremely painful.
Not that any present members of our police forces would ever use such an opportunity to dole out some extrajudicial punishment to someone who, say, questioned their authority. But if some ordinary people who might succumb to that temptation were to join the force, are we certain they wouldn’t?
I think we should be very, very careful before adopting any of these new punitive weapons. Very careful.