The Use of Pepper Spray in Police Brutality
Police brutality has become a growing trend in the United States. The tactics used to apprehend suspected criminals have become cruel and demeaning, not to mention life threatening. There have been numerous cases where police officers have intentionally brutalized people during attempted arrests. Pepper spray seems to be the new weapon of choice among police officers nationwide; it contains a dangerous chemical component known as OC (oleoresin capsicum). Contact with this chemical may, "choke people already impaired by medical conditions such as asthma, enlarged hearts, hypertension or obesity, or people affected by drugs or from being tied up and left lying on their stomachs" (Koury and Reed 19). There have been cases where people have actually died from being sprayed with pepper spray; therefore, pepper spray is a lethal weapon that police officers should use only during life threatening situations.
The safety of pepper spray has never been proven scientifically. Furthermore, "since 1992, there have been over seventy in-custody deaths related to OC/ pepper spray, thirty-seven of which were in California" (Earth First 7). In spite of all those deaths pepper spray is still being used haphazardly by police officers. For example, "San Francisco police are still sticking by the chemical [pepper spray], even though it has been linked to at least a pair of highly publicized in-custody deaths" (Koury and Reed 11). A deadly incident involving pepper spray occurred in Novato, California, when Brian Prosser who reportedly had asthma, "died October 20th, 1997 after ... police doused him with pepper spray to subdue him" (Barak 5). His death was said to have been caused by "cardio-pulmonary arrest due to agitated delirium due to substance abuse" (Barak 6). According to Allan Parachini, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "... pepper spray never alone causes death but when it is combined with other restraints, there is a definite risk of fatality" (Wilson 23). People are dying after coming in contact with pepper spray because police officers do not know the complications associated with it when used against someone with a medical condition or a drug problem. This incident tells the citizens of America that no matter what illness they may have; pepper spray will be used without concern for their lives. Since then, "Berkeley's Pepper Spray Task Force declared that police [officers] should abandon the noxious liquid" (Koury and Reed 2).
The police officer's use of pepper spray is targeted toward, "subjects who are highly aggressive, agitated, intoxicated, or suffering from mental illness" (qtd. in Earth First 12). Although pepper spray is used against hostile individuals, "Humboldt County Sheriffs have used OC/ pepper spray ten times against non violent activists acting completely passive and in no way endangering the lives of the officers on the scene" (Earth First 10). ...