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Report of the Pepper Spray Committee Civilian Complaint Review Board

NCJ Number
Charles M. Greinsky; Sheri Holland; Jules Martin
Date Published
October 2000
27 pages
This report reviews the pepper spray policy of the New York Police Department (NYPD) and offers recommendations for changes.
In 1997, the NYPD's policy on pepper spray was published. Following the shooting death of an emotionally disturbed man who had failed to be subdued with pepper spray, the Pepper Spray Committee reconvened to examine the original policy. This report presents the Committee’s findings, offers a review of the literature regarding the effectiveness and health concerns of pepper spray, analyzes complaints of the NYPD use of pepper spray, and presents recommendations on the current NYPD pepper spray policy. The NYPD policy on pepper spray use is enumerated and the NYPD training on its use is described. The research literature is divided on the safety of pepper spray as a less-than-lethal police use of force. While some evidence suggests pepper spray is safe and effective at subduing suspects, other evidence indicates possible health hazards associated with its use. During the period January 1996 through June 1999, 263 complaints were received regarding allegations of inappropriate use of pepper spray by a police officer; 22 of these complaints were substantiated. Characteristics of the complainants and the subject officers are reviewed. The Pepper Spray Committee concluded that the NYPD should continue to use pepper spray as a less-than-lethal use of force; several recommendations are presented for its future use. These recommendations include the use of a report form when pepper spray is used by an officer; restricting the use of pepper spray against suspects who appear emotionally disturbed; and sufficient officer training on the use of pepper spray. Table, footnotes, appendix