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Pepper Spray and In-Custody Deaths

NCJ Number
RCMP Gazette Volume: 56 Issue: 11 Dated: (1994) Pages: 12-17
J Granfield; J Onnen; C S Petty
Date Published
6 pages
Because of recent reports linking in-custody deaths to police use of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) or pepper spray, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), under the auspices of the National Institute of Justice, examined whether OC could be a factor in these deaths.
Based on several data sources, the IACP identified 30 incidents in the U.S. between August 1990 and December 1993 in which death of a suspect followed a spraying with OC. The 30 cases shared some common characteristics; all suspects behaved in a combative or bizarre manner, drugs or alcohol use was involved, OC spray was either ineffective or less than effective, other means of restraint were used, and all deaths occurred immediately or soon after the confrontation. The IACP review concluded that OC was not the cause of death in these cases, but that the suspects died from asphyxia, drug-related factors, or drug-related diseases. The four leading causes of in-custody deaths include positional asphyxiation, cocaine intoxication, excited delirium, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. 16 references