Pepper-spray inventor: "It's fashionable to use chemical agents on people who have an opinion"

Amy Goodman interviews Kamran Loghman, inventor of modern pepper spray and developer of police procedures for its use. Loghman regrets his work today, and says it's "fashionable" to use chemical agents on "people who have an opinion":

It is becoming more and more fashionable right now, this day and age, to use chemical on people who have an opinion. And that to me is a complete lack of leadership both in the police department and other people who cannot really deal with the root of the problem and they want to spray people to quiet them down. And it’s really not supposed to be that. It’s not a thing that solves any problem nor is it something that quiets people down.”

Pepper Spray Developer: It Has Become Fashionable to Use Chemicals on People with Opinions (via Naked Capitalism)

What the evidence says about pepper spray safety

The casual and close-range use of pepper spray on nonviolent protesters: It's not just morally bankrupt, it's also not evidence based!

Judy Stone is a doctor, infectious disease specialist, and the author of a book on how to properly conduct clinical research. She's got a guest post on Scientific American blog network looking at the scientific research that's been done to document the effects and safety of pepper spray, and how to treat exposure to pepper spray.

Shorter version: The evidence basis behind the use of pepper spray, especially in the sort of contexts one is actually likely to encounter in the real world, is woefully limited. (It's a lot like tasers that way. In both cases, the research that does exist has mostly been done using physically fit, healthy, adult subjects who are not emotionally or physically distressed in any way at the moment they are hit. They're also being hit using manufacturer recommended dosages and distances of application. Real-world data suggests there's a MASSIVE difference between the effects of that sort of scenario and, say, a terrified teenager being shot in the face at point-blank range. Or an old woman who has been walking quickly, trying to get away from police. Just to throw some hypotheticals out there.) Meanwhile, the evidence that does exist strongly suggests that police forces are currently using pepper spray in ways that are inappropriate and unsafe. Evidence. Not opinion.

Also: Liquid antacids seem to be the best way to alleviate the effects of pepper spray. Perhaps it's time to stock up on Maalox.

There are reports of the efficacy of capsaicin in crowd control, but little regarding trials of exposures. Perhaps this is because pepper spray is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, as a pesticide and not by the FDA.

The concentration of capsaicin in bear spray is 1-2%; it is 10-30% in “personal defense sprays.”

While the police might feel reassured by the study, “The effect of oleoresin capsicum “pepper” spray inhalation on respiratory function,” I was not. This study met the “gold standard” of clinical trials, in that it was a “randomized, cross-over controlled trial to assess the effect of Oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray inhalation on respiratory function by itself and combined with restraint.” However, while the OC exposure showed no ill effect, only 34 volunteers were exposed to only 1 sec of Cap-Stun 5.5% OC spray by inhalation “from 5 ft away as they might in the field setting (as recommended by both manufacturer and local police policies).”

By contrast, an ACLU report, “Pepper Spray Update: More Fatalities, More Questions” found, in just two years, 26 deaths after OC spraying, noting that death was more likely if the victim was also restrained. This translated to 1 death per 600 times police used spray. (The cause of death was not firmly linked to the OC). According to the ACLU, “an internal memorandum produced by the largest supplier of pepper spray to the California police and civilian markets” concludes that there may be serious risks with more than a 1 sec spray. A subsequent Department of Justice study examined another 63 deaths after pepper spray during arrests; the spray was felt to be a “contributing factor” in several.

A review in 1996 by the Division of Epidemiology of the NC DHHS and OSHA concluded that exposure to OC spray during police training constituted an unacceptable health risk.

Remember kids: When you think "pepper-spraying cop" and "unacceptable health risk," you should also think, "Lt. John Pike."

Ho, ho, ho, well if it isn't fat stinking billygoat Billyboy?


The Casual Pepper-Spraying Cop has found his niche: he's a droog, and he's up for a bit of the old ultra-aerosol.

Droogs (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Blazing de-bullshitification of the arguments for militarized campus police forces

UC Davis music professor Bob Ostertag has written a savagely brilliant editorial in the Huffington Post, denouncing the use of military-style force by campus police, in particular the now-infamous point-blank chemical weapons attack on peaceful students on the UC Davis campus. Ostertag dissects the "health and safety" arguments put forward by the administration, the excuse that "no other options" were available to the administration, the "outside agitator" fearmongering, and the intellectually dishonest equivocating of passive, nonviolent resistance with violence. Xeni linked to this in passing this weekend, but it is such a blazing piece of de-bullshitification that I want to give it its own post.

Could Chancellor Katehi please explain what "serious health and safety concerns" were posed at Davis that were absent at Columbia? The only thing that involved a "serious health and safety concern" at Davis yesterday was the pepper spray. I just spoke with a doctor who works for the California Department of Corrections, who participated in a recent review of the medical literature on pepper spray for the CDC. They concluded that the medical consequences of pepper spray are poorly understood but involve serious health risk. As with chili peppers, some people tolerate pepper spray well, while others have extreme reactions. It is not known why this is the case. As a result, if a doctor sees pepper spray used in a prison, he or she is required to file a written report. And regulations prohibit the use of pepper spray on inmates in all circumstances other than the immediate threat of violence. If a prisoner is seated, by definition the use of pepper spray is prohibited. Any prison guard who used pepper spray on a seated prisoner would face immediate disciplinary review for the use of excessive force. Even in the case of a prison riot in which inmates use extreme violence, once a prisoner sits down he or she is not considered to be an imminent threat. And if prison guards go into a situation where the use of pepper spray is considered likely, they are required to have medical personnel nearby to treat the victims of the chemical agent.

Apparently, in the state of California felons incarcerated for violent crimes have rights that students at public universities do not.

Militarization Of Campus Police (via Beth Pratt)

UC Davis course catalog, pepper spray edition

From Jay Rosen, "Excerpt from UC Davis 2010-2012 General Catalog":

176. Introduction to Pepper Spray. (3) Lecture— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Crowd Control Through Chemicals 122B. Basic uses of pepper spray in threatening, semi-threatening and completely non-threatening and utterly peaceful situations. Common spraying techniques. Overview of rationalization methods. Color choices. Jackboot styles.

177. Advanced Pepper Spraying. (3) Lecture— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Introduction to Pepper Spray 176. Calculating optimum angles in spraying situations. Spraying seated vs. standing persons. History and development of chemical warfare against inconvenient demonstrations. Elements of CYA: basics and best practices.

178: Pepper Spray Practicum. (3). Laboratory— 3 hours. Prerequisite: Advanced Pepper Spraying 177. Working in teams, students locate sites where individuals are exercising so-called First Amendment rights and develop a strategy for spraying them. Emphasis on intimidation and staying calm under awesome hippie threat. Teams are held responsible for escaping responsibility and insulating higher-ups.

Excerpt from UC Davis 2010-2012 General Catalog (Thanks, Jay!)

"A Pepper Spray Thanksgiving," Norman Rockwell's long-lost Saturday Evening Post cover

By artist and illustrator Bob Staake, whose work you may have seen on the cover of the New Yorker. Gonna have to add this one to the meme-stack. As I post this, word's coming in that the ACLU has just delivered a letter of condemnation to UC Davis chancellor Katehi.

Video remix: UC Davis pepper spray incident viewed from 4 different perspectives

Andy Baio says,

I was stunned and appalled by the UC Davis Police spraying protestors, but struck by how many brave, curious people recorded the events. I took the four clearest videos and synchronized them. Citizen journalism FTW.

Video Link / Sources listed here.

Measuring Pepper Spray on the Scoville scale of chili pepper hotness

If you're heading out to an Occupation today AND you're a fan of tasty, tasty chili peppers, you'll want to read Deborah Blum's "About Pepper" essay in Scientific American.

The reason pepper-spray ends up on the Scoville chart is that – you probably guessed this - it’s literally derived from pepper chemistry, the compounds that make habaneros so much more formidable than the comparatively wimpy bells. Those compounds are called capsaicins and – in fact – pepper spray is more formally called Oleoresin Capsicum or OC Spray.

But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.

Until you look it up on the Scoville scale and remember, as toxicologists love to point out, that the dose makes the poison.

(via @chaplinscourage)

Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student

Photo:Brian Nguyen/The Aggie.

22-year-old UC Davis student W. (name withheld by request) was one of the students pepper-sprayed at point-blank range Friday by Lt.

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After pepper-spraying incident, UC Davis redesigns website

Link. They might want to rethink that motto, however. (thanks, @justinq!)

Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis

[Video Link, by terrydatiger, and Video Link 2, by jamiehall1516].

At the University of California at Davis this afternoon, police tore down down the tents of students inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and arrested those who stood in their way.

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