In the August 2007 issue of Law Officer Magazine is an article that is both informative and scary.
For years it has been common knowledge that departments that issue both electronic control devices (such as the TASER) and oleoresin capsicum (O.C. or pepper) spray should be careful to buy a non-flammable formulation of O.C. spray. Early formulations of O.C. spray used an alcohol-based carrier, which was more effective that the water used today. However, the alcohol was also flammable.
There is at least one recorded incident in which a stun gun was used on a combative suspect who had already been sprayed with an alcohol formulation of O.C. with both spectacular and disastrous results.
Most manufacturers produce non-flammable pepper spray formulations for police departments. Some even label the O.C. as safe to use with TASER-type weapons. I suspect that most departments, like my own, have accepted the manufacturers’ testing of their own products.
CRT Consulting, a less-lethal weapons research company, tested 48 different formulations of pepper spray to determine if the O.C. is safe to use with a TASER. The results were not encouraging.
Using a forensics dummy wearing a t-shirt and jeans, the CRT Consulting test team applied a 10 second cycle from a M26 TASER, while spraying the mannequin with a 2-3 second burst of O.C. Of the 48 formulations tested, 12 were marked as “non flammable,” or “EDW Tested and Safe.” Of those 12, eight resulted in flames and ignition of the clothing, including the can marked “EDW Tested and Safe.”
Your department may want to contact CRT Consulting to determine if your pepper spray really is “non flammable.” Certainly, testing your current O.C./TASER combination should be a priority before something ugly happens to put you as the lead story in tonight’s news.
Prior to this magazine article, CRT published an article on PoliceOne about this subject here.
There are other concerns about the use of TASER-type devices on people with heart conditions. We can try to limit the exposure in those situations, but mixing flammable pepper spray with an electronic control device is completely preventable.