In riot or crowd control and as a means of self-defense, police officers use pepper spray. They also use it in some cases to defend themselves and others from attacks by dogs and other animals. Pepper spray is available in different strengths. The heat producing ingredient in the spray is capsaicin, a chemical compound found in chili peppers. When used by police officers, it rapidly incapacitates the criminal element. Pepper spray is also extremely effective in subduing those individuals who may not register any pain, such as drug addicts, alcoholics, or even psychotics.
Police grade pepper spray is an inflammatory substance. When an officer of the law sprays an individual, the person will immediately close their eyes. They will have breathing difficulties, coughing, and a runny nose. The individual’s eyes will become very red and watery. The full effects of being sprayed will last for about thirty to forty-five minutes. There will be some lingering discomfort from the spray for hours afterwards. There are some police grade sprays available with an indelible dye that aids in marking a criminal.
After a person has been sprayed, most will plead for relief from the discomfort. The chemical compound capsaicin that is in the pepper spray is not water soluble. Water will not be effective in washing it off the skin or out of the eyes. Some police agencies supply officers with wipes that are produced especially for the purpose of decontaminating a spray victim. Victims of the spray should blink their eyes rapidly. This usually encourages tearing of the eyes and will ultimately flush out the chemical. Some ambulance services apply baby shampoo to the skin. Other recommended treatments to relieve skin pain are antacid liquid, lidocaine gel, and milk. Products that are high in fat content are generally sufficient.
Individuals should be advised to avoid having the spray rubbed into the skin. This will only cause the burning sensation to last longer. It will also allow the spray to get on the hands, thus, spreading it to other areas. Police grade pepper spray is a non-lethal agent. There have been rare cases in which it was suspected that pepper spray contributed to death. However, there is no evidence to prove the suspicions.
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