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NCJ Number
J Onnen
Date Published
5 pages
Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), a naturally occurring agent found in cayenne pepper, is becoming a popular less-than- lethal (LTL) option for many law enforcement agencies.
Purportedly safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive, OC may reduce the potential for excessive police force complaints, civil litigation, and injury- related expenditures. Despite extensive field application, however, few evaluative studies of OC have been conducted. Issues associated with OC use in law enforcement concern product safety and efficacy, agent selection, training protocols, and liability considerations. Unlike traditional chemical agents, OC is a naturally occurring agent that works by inflammation. No special decontamination procedures are required for OC because it is biodegradable and does not persist in clothing or affected areas. As an inflammatory agent, OC causes an almost immediate swelling of the eyes and breathing passages. Additionally, OC causes an intense burning sensation in the eyes, throat, and sprayed skin areas. Physical effects may include involuntary closing of the eyes, coughing, choking, lack of upper body strength and coordination, and nausea. Psychological effects such as disorientation and fear may also occur. Currently, OC is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, or the Consumer Product Safety Council. Further, there is no known litigation resulting from OC use, and anecdotal reports of agent effectiveness are favorable. Operational considerations in OC use by police officers are examined. 14 references