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Pepper-spray review urgently needed

GLOBAL PEACE & JUSTICE AUCKLAND

7 February 2008

Pepper-spray review urgently needed after fourth death

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is joining calls for an high-priority independent review of police use of pepper-spray after the fourth death from its use on the weekend. Henry Bailey was killed when pepper-sprayed by police at his Mangere home. Three previous deaths have been recorded in similar circumstances with all four victims having mental health issues.

It is not acceptable for this investigation to be left to the so-called Independent Police Conduct Authority. It is simply the renamed Police Complaints Authority and doesn't have the resources to complete an independent investigation. It has far too often simply acted as a public apologist for police excess.

It is fatuous for the police to say Henry Bailey died of a heart attack rather than from pepper-spray. Such police spin is now a well established feature of police reporting to media. The simple fact is Henry would be alive today had he not been pepper-sprayed.

Police use of pepper-spray has ballooned out of control in recent year and in now being used willy-nilly with more than 2000 cases reported last year. The review of the use of pepper-spray should include why the guidelines for its use are apparently ineffective and whether it is needed in the first place.

Meanwhile the police are shortly to report on their decision over the proposal to deploy tasers to front-line police. Tasers have resulted in more than 200 deaths in North America over the past five years. The taser decision should be shelved until the pepper-spray review is complete.

More money spent on police training in defusing difficult situations would be far better spent than arming the police and encouraging a shoot-first mentality to develop further.

ENDS


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