The NYPD hopes a more potent pepper spray will lead to fewer police shootings — but some critics say the upgraded aerosol is a recipe for disaster, reports the New York Daily News.
More than 19,000 officers so far have been given canisters of Sabre 5.0, a spray with a .67% concentration of major capsaicinoids, the chemicals that make peppers hot.
That’s more than three times the .21% concentration in the spray the NYPD has used for years. Both sprays are manufactured by Sabre Security Equipment Corp.
NYPD officials said that as the department works to track and investigate the use of force, it will know how often cops are using the spray, which is considered the preferable alternative to other uses of force from a physical takedown to shooting a gun. The new version has been in use for six weeks.
NYPD guidelines permit the use of pepper spray when it is deemed necessary to bring someone resisting arrest into custody, to subdue an emotionally disturbed person who is resisting, or for self-defense against someone using force.
The .21% version — so weak it usually did not work on dogs, emotionally disturbed people or suspects high on certain drugs — was considered unreliable by many officers.
"A more effective pepper spray can help reduce the amount of force needed to gain control of a suspect or emotionally disturbed person," NYPD Deputy Chief Edward Mullen told the Daily News. "The new pepper spray will still be significantly weaker than what is used by many other police departments around the country."