Weapons Are Not the Answer (Public Comment)

Carol Denney
Saturday September 09, 2017 - 11:31:00 AM

Re: Special meeting to loosen pepper spray restrictions 3:00 pm, Tuesday, September 12, Old City Hall Council Chambers.

I share our community's frustration over those organized to stop others from speaking, and the confounding position it puts us in when hate groups come to town. But weapons, in this case loosening the restrictions for the use of pepper spray, are not the answer.

Pepper spray was once marketed as "non-lethal" and "effective" by manufacturers who now acknowledge it is only occasionally effective in disabling an unpredictable ratio of suspects in highly constrained circumstances; San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin stated at a hearing in 2016, “What option does an officer have in a small room, when you cannot use a baton and you cannot use pepper spray because you’ll spray yourself?”

The obvious happened over the years; the lack of regulation of indiscriminate pepper spray products and their unpredictable rate of efficacy encouraged manufacturers to produce more concentrated products in combination with additional chemicals with little study about physiological effects of these combinations despite pepper spray's implication in dozens of deaths in California; 

"A new report[1] from The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and Physicians for Human Rights, "Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons," found that more potent formulations of pepper spray are increasingly the weapon of choice by police. They also report that OC preparations may also include other toxic chemicals, such as alcohol, halogenated hydrocarbons, or propellants. Such combinations make it more difficult to treat exposures. In fact, a 2004 paper from Duke and University of North Carolina cautioned about the other chemicals often used with OC, noting, “Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.” 

Police departments will never stop pressuring for more weaponry, and there's rarely a political upside to turning them down. But there's no substitute for more community clarity about our shared goals, including free speech and public safety. We have yet to have a community forum on the best way to approach what may be a endless stream of provocative speakers coming to town to test our resolve to allow all points of view. 

Note that the police request continually refers to the probable targets of this new policy as "violent extremists", which begs the question; if individuals have committed acts of violence they are already subject to arrest, raising the concern that people in similar attire might be pepper-sprayed for merely being nearby or in similar attire. 

Please recommend this police request be taken under consideration by the relevant commissions before allowing indiscriminate chemical irritants more acceptance. 

[1] From "Pharma and Healthcare", by Judy Stone, Mar 16, 2016.