Interesting: Researchers have found that while “intermediate weapons” such as Tasers and pepper spray were introduced to reduce lethal force, evidence suggests they can in fact escalate otherwise non-violent situations.
In one analysis, criminologists found that police use of force rose by 33 percent in Concord, North Carolina following the approval of pepper spray as a law enforcement tool. After an arrestee died in custody after being sprayed, pepper spray use was restricted; use-of-force incidents then fell by 57 percent, even though arrest rates rose by almost 4 percent.
“This suggests that the use of spray may not necessarily be an alternative to force, but provides officers with options to use more force — perhaps unnecessarily. In other words, if it is there, they will use it,” wrote that study’s co-authors, criminologists Paul Friday and Richard Lumb of the University of North Carolina.
That the number of times police used force seemed disconnected from threats to public order led Friday and Lumb to hypothesize that having pepper spray could change how officers behaved.
“Do officers become more assertive in suspect confrontational situations when they are ‘armed’ with an additional tool? Does the possession of OC spray unreasonably increase the sense of self-confidence and security and thereby create a self-fulfilling prophecy of threat?” they wondered. “While OC spray, when used, reduced injuries, does its mere possession increase the potential for physical force being used?”
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