If Charlotte-Mecklenburg police follow their rules, they won’t resort to pepper spray if confronted with nonviolent protesters at next year’s Democratic National Convention, says the Charlotte Observer. The rules that guide police behavior say that OC spray – short for oleoresin capsicum, the formal name for pepper spray – should not be used unless there’s “an imminent threat” to the officer or to someone’s safety.
When police should and should not use this aerosol irritant, which can cause temporary blindness, coughing and a restriction in breathing, has become the subject of national debate with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Police in New York, Denver, Seattle, and Portland, Or., have been widely criticized for trying to control Occupy crowds by using the spray, which gets its power from an inflammatory agent found naturally in cayenne and many other kinds of pepper. The incident that caused the most outrage occurred Nov. 18 at the University of California-Davis. Charlotte Police Capt. Jeff Estes said current directives would prohibit spraying demonstrators even if they refused, nonviolently, to follow orders to disperse. About 35,000 people, including protesters, are expected in Charlotte next September for the convention.