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Facts About Oleoresin Capsicum Sprays

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 21 Issue: 5 Dated: (May 1994) Pages: 32- 35
E Nowicki
Date Published
4 pages
The use of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) (pepper) aerosol sprays is explored.
According to this article, the use of OC sprays has led to a growing body of misinformation about the safety of these sprays and what they can and cannot do. This article, in a question-and-answer format, presents the most frequently asked questions about OC and its uses together with answers provided by various law enforcement, medical, and legal experts. According to John Granfield's study, with assistance from Dr. Charles Petty, professor of Forensic Science and Pathology at the University of Texas, 22 of 29 deaths that involved the spraying of the victim with OC spray, were the result of factors other than the OC exposure. (The other seven victims did not supply sufficient information for evaluation purposes.) A copy of Granfield's study, Pepper Spray and In-Custody Deaths, conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for the National Institute of Justice, is available by writing or calling the IACP at the address and phone number provided in the article. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions include that OC sprays can cause temporary corneal damage, similar to inflammation caused by hair spray. An officer must consider whether he or she is in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm before using deadly force when confronted with a a subject's threat to spray the officer with OC spray. OC sprays should not be considered a replacement for the baton, but rather as an additional nonlethal force option. All OC aerosols must meet Federal environmental guidelines; however, officers need to remember that some contain alcohol and should not be used in conjunction with electronic stun guns and TASERs. OC aerosols work on most, but not all, people and attack dogs. There is no one best, most effective OC spray pattern to use in all situations. There is an increased recovery time for higher OC percentage sprays. A credible argument can be made that officers should be sprayed with OC aerosol during training so that, should it be necessary, the officers can testify in court that they know what it is like to be sprayed and, should they be sprayed by an attacker, will know how impaired their defense capabilities will be.


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