Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police officers last year reached for Tasers about seven times as often as they did pepper spray, reports the Charlotte Observer. Officers used the stun guns about 140 times in 2007, said a police department study. They used pepper spray about 20 times. It was the third year in a row that Taser use increased at about the same pace as pepper spray use decreased. Tasers have drawn scrutiny because officers used them in three recent Charlotte-area cases that left suspects injured or dead. Police have relied on pepper spray since the 1970s to end potentially dangerous conflicts quickly. Officers are turning to Tasers, mainly due to the spray’s limitations. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department committee met this week to begin investigating the Taser increase.
Officers say pepper spray is sometimes difficult to use and can actually get on the officer. It also takes a long time for the symptoms to wear off. “It would be great if they would comply and stand still and look at you as you sprayed them, but that’s not the way it usually goes down,” said Gaston County police Capt. Jay Human. Like Tasers, pepper spray has been linked to deaths. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union in California in the mid-’90s found that one person died for every 600 times police used the spray. Researchers determined that pepper spray alone was responsible for only a small portion of those deaths.