Pepper Spray

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As the Wall Street Occupation has spread across the States, police involvement has increased.  Public Parks located near targeted establishments have turned into tent cities as the 99%ers’ have turned their frustrations towards the 1%ers’.  Sympathies, support, and admiration for the protesters has waned as local businesses have been affected in a negative way, a direct result of the “Squatters.”

This afternoon, Friday, December 2, 2011, protesters have began marching in the streets of San Francisco around 3PM, creating havoc with the normally horrendous afternoon commute.  Recently, the Occupation protesters have been joined with students protesting the ever increasing tuition to attend college.  The University of California, Davis campus, located near our Sacramento capital, was the scene of students passively protesting increased costs.

Protesters sat on the ground, locked arm-in-arm, as police stood nearby at-the-ready. For whatever reason, a police lieutenant, armed with a large cannister of pepper spray, walked up and down the tranquil protesters “Hosing” them down with pepper spray.  The officer’s action drew national attention throughout the media and internet.

I would guess his action was to dissuade protesting, but had just the opposite effect.  In addition to the original protests, police brutality was now an issue.  As a retired deputy sheriff, I can tell you first-hand that pepper spray is nasty, nasty stuff.  Although it is classified as nonlethal, medical attention is often required, especially if the spray hits you directly in the face.

Upon contact with pepper spray, your eyes “Slam shut,” you will experience difficulty breathing, and “Snot” will run freely out of your nose.  Pepper spray was designed to debilitate an aggressor upon contact, and it does a really, really good job.  It ranks about mid-way in the “Use of force” policies that govern police officers.

It is not my belief, nor apparently anyone that viewed the actions of this officer, that the protesters were deemed a threat to the officer or anyone else.  Frustration, emotion, anger, an array of feelings can lead people to make irrational choices, but highly trained police officers to not have the luxury of letting their feelings override their judgement.  We are simply held to a hire degree, based solely on our training.

A recent article appeared recent in the Tri-Valley Times featured a chart at the end of an article.  The chart rates the intensity, the heat of various peppers, with pepper spray ranking third on the heat list.  The following is copied verbatim from the original article:


How Hot Is Pepper Spray?*

 Oleoresin capsicum (OC) pepper spray, which is used by law enforcement, is made of extracts from chile peppers.  In its raw form, the extract measures 2 million Scoville Heat Units, a measure of spicy heat level.  However, in pepper sprays, is diluted to about 200,000 SHU.  Approximate heat for selected chilies in Scoville Heat Units:


Trinidad Scorpion**                          1.43 million SHU

Habanero, Scotch Bonnet              350,000

OC Pepper Spray                           200,000

Thai Hot                                                 60,000

Serrano                                                  25,000

Cayenne (Long Slim)                        23,000

Jalapeno                                                5,500

Tabasco Sauce                                    5,000

Bell Pepper                                           0


* The Tri-Valley Times is owned by the Bay Area News Group.  Their source:
Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University,, Guinness World Records and McClatchy-Tribune

** Hottest natural chili, according to Guinness World Records

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