Police defend spraying

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014

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Police say using pepper spray on a drunk and handcuffed New Plymouth man trying to run away was within guidelines.

Shannon Gary Kevin Martin, 23, was sentenced to 100 hours' community work in court this week after admitting assaulting his partner and resisting police trying to arrest him.

Police were called when Martin, who was drunk and became jealous at a party at their home, had locked his girlfriend in their bedroom and forced himself on her.

Police had to break down the bedroom door to get Martin off his victim.

He was handcuffed but ran off. He was then pepper sprayed, police saying he was "extremely agitated and aggressive", and taken into custody.

Yesterday the Taranaki Daily News inquired whether the use of pepper spray in this case - where a handcuffed man was running away - came within police policy.

A police spokesman replied that the policy allowed for officers to use a range of tactical options where required to resolve situations where there was a threat to staff or public safety.

"It is not uncommon for officers to need to use more than one tactical option when dealing with violent or aggressive behaviour, for example even when someone may be handcuffed but is still actively resisting police and presenting a risk to staff and public safety," he said.

Pepper spray or OC spray is a chemical compound (oleoresin capsicum) which irritates the eyes, causing tears, pain and temporary blindness.

In March, police announced they were stepping up firearms training and trialling stronger pepper spray as a result of an increase in serious violence cases against officers.

At the same time, it was announced a trial of a powerful new pepper spray, six times stronger than the current spray, would be extended.

That trial is still under way.

At the time, Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the union was lobbying for more training as more officers were being assaulted.

O'Connor welcomed stronger pepper sprays.

"When police are facing assault from people on drugs or who have been drinking, pepper spray is a very good option for dealing with those people who can be very resistant."

The trial initially involved the Bay of Plenty and its extension will see it also used in Napier, Hastings and Gisborne.

The trials are liquid and gel forms of the Sabre Red spray containing six times more capsicum than the current spray. It is believed to work faster and take longer to wear off.

Police believe pepper spray has one of the lowest injury rates of all the "tactical tools" used by police.

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Last year's figures released by the police show spray was used 138 times in the Central police district of which Taranaki is part. Nationally it was used 1391 times.

Between 1998 and 2013, serious assaults on police went up by 172.5 per cent.

- Taranaki Daily News

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