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Inquiry into excessive use of pepper spray call

25 July 2001

Greens call for inquiry into excessive use of pepper spray

The Green Party Police Spokesperson Keith Locke today accused police of inappropriate use of pepper spray and asked for a government inquiry into the excessive use of this chemical agent.

Police Minister George Hawkins was challenged in the House today by Mr Locke over the deaths of two people who died after being pepper sprayed by the New Zealand Police.

In an answer to Mr Locke's question, the Minister of Police admitted that pepper spray has been used 4,420 times since its introduction in 1998.

"These figures show not only extremely high use of this controversial weapon, but also a significant increase: it was used 1,994 times in the first 23 months, and 2,476 times in the next 19 months.

"It seems that the police do not even respect their own guidelines for the use of pepper spray. The guidelines say that police members may only use pepper spray to 'arrest an offender if they believe on reasonable grounds that the offender poses a threat of physical injury, and arrest cannot be affected less forcefully'.

"The Hamilton case illustrates the problem whereby three police officers, used pepper spray to arrest a single, unarmed, mentally and physically disabled man," said Mr Locke.

The disabled man died after falling into a coma shortly after being pepper-sprayed by police. There is considerable dispute about the safety of pepper spray. It is reported that 70 people mainly in the US have died after been pepper-sprayed.

"The Green Party is calling on the Government to initiate an inquiry into the detrimental health effects of pepper spray and its use by the police," he said.

ENDS


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