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Police extending trial of "gel" OC spray

Police extending trial of "gel" OC spray

New Zealand Police has begun an extended six-month trial of a gel-based version of a more concentrated form OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) “pepper” spray, aimed at improving staff and public safety.

The trial of the stronger spray was first announced in the Bay of Plenty last year.

The new spray contains approximately six times more capsicum than the current spray, meaning that it has a more effective immediate impact, and takes slightly longer to wear off. It also contains a non-permanent natural red pigment, which aids aiming and placement of the spray.

National Manager Operational Services, Inspector Jason Ross, said the extended trial, to be held in the Eastern Police District, followed the evaluation of two forms of the spray in the Bay of Plenty in November last year – a traditional liquid 'stream' based spray – and the slightly thicker gel-based version.

"Following the Bay of Plenty trial held last year, Police is keen to further explore the potential advantages of the gel-based spray, which we believe may have some additional benefits over the more traditional stream-based liquid spray that we have been using since 2007.

"Based on evaluation of staff feedback from the Bay of Plenty trial, among potential benefits of the gel spray is that it is less affected by wind and other environmental conditions, meaning less risk of cross-contamination for our staff or members of the public. Also, due to its slightly thicker consistency, it has greater range – but does require a greater degree of accuracy to use effectively," Mr Ross says.

In the meantime, the stream-based version of the spray will continue to be trialled in the Bay of Plenty alongside the Eastern District gel spray trial.

"However, before making any further decisions, we need to be confident that the gel spray will provide the necessary benefits to ensure the safety of our staff and the public. The extended trial in the Eastern district will allow us to test the spray more fully in range of situations and conditions so we can be assured of its effectiveness."

Once an evaluation of the trial has been completed, a recommendation will be made to the Police executive for consideration. However, Mr Ross said no decisions or recommendations would be made until the proper analysis had been carried out.

Mr Ross said OC spray continued to be an effective and important tactical tool for Police, which had one of the lowest levels of subject injuries from all available tactical options. Because the new spray worked in the same way as Police's current spray, there would be no changes required to current training and tactics if adopted.

Trials of the new spray come as numbers of assaults on Police continue to decline. From the 2008/09 fiscal year until 2012/13 (latest data available) there has been a 30% drop in recorded assaults on Police, and the organisation is committed to continuing to reduce that number.


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