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Evaluation of Pepper Spray, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
8 pages
Publication Series
A field test of the use of aerosol pepper spray by the Baltimore County (Md.) Police Department from July 1993 to March 1994 revealed that pepper spray is a less-than-lethal weapon that effectively addresses the issues of police officer and citizen injury.
The research focused on whether oleoresin capsicum (OC) aerosol can effectively incapacitate humans, including those who are intoxicated, drugged, or mentally disturbed, in confrontations with police. It also examined its impacts on assaults against police, injuries to both police and suspects, complaints about police brutality, and dogs that were attacking or threatening. Results revealed that OC spray successfully incapacitated humans in 156 of 174 (90 percent) confrontations. Individuals were not completely subdued in 18 encounters. Seven of these persons exhibited bizarre behavior that suggested that persons on drugs or mentally troubled may not yield to OC's effects. The rate of decline of assaults on police officers increased after OC was introduced. Use-of-force complaints against the police decreased by 53 percent in the study period, despite reduced personnel and increased the demand for services. No complaints addressed the use of OC. Overall, findings demonstrated that a well-developed OC-spray program can provide operational benefits to the police. Figures and reference notes

Date Published: January 1, 1997