A dozen police officers were affected by their colleagues’ use of pepper spray on protesters outside the House of Assembly on December 2.
And more details have emerged about the use of force with police commissioner Michael DeSilva acknowledging that he is only aware of three persons receiving aftercare from police officers after being pepper sprayed.
But DeSilva said that no officer used a taser on the protesters – contradicting witnesses who said a woman had been tased at the Reid Street entrance to the House of Assembly.
Commissioner DeSilva reported that he had seen no information warranting suspension of officers involved in policing the protests and indicated that he was not aware that one officer had been using two canisters at the same time.
The policy does not prohibit an officer from using two canisters, although this would be unusual. It might be the case that the first canister failed, or that another officer dropped the canister accidentally. In any event, it would be helpful to review the actual video in order to understand what happened.
DeSilva downplayed the significance of officers receiving “friendly fire” pepper spray when asked if it caused him any concern.
Cross contamination in close quarters can occur, and officers are trained to respond appropriately. The effect of being exposed to overspray is likely to be irritating, but not incapacitating as when sprayed directly, and the recovery time is likely to be shorter.
The Commissioner clarified that the version of pepper spray used was Captor 2, a more potent formulation than Captor 1 which was used by the BPS from 2006 until 2013.
According to the UK’s independent Committee on Toxicity, Captor 2 is less risky in terms of adverse respiratory effects and cross contamination. Unlike the original formulation it is non flammable, but stronger and must be aimed at the eyes for it to be most effective.
DeSilva’s response to our questions came as the Opposition Progressive Labour Party renews its call for an independent inquiry into the events of that day.
Policy on the use of the substance requires officers to monitor and provide aftercare to people subjected to pepper spray.
According to police 26 people have made complaints to the Police Complaints Authority, while 14 officers were allegedly assaulted.
The use of the toxic substance was defended by police commissioner Michael DeSilva as proportionate and justifiable in a press statement on the evening of December 2.
Critics disagree saying that its use was indiscriminate and disproportionate.
Governor John Rankin has promised a review led by a senior UK officer. However, the PLP insists that only a judicial inquiry is appropriate.
The incapacitant spray known as “Captor” was issued to officers of the Bermuda Police Service in 2005 for use “only on those occasions when there is an immediate and serious risk to the safety of a Police Officer or a member of the public” according to then police commissioner Jonathan Smith.
Captor spray is also used by law enforcement agencies in the UK and the United States where it is considered a non lethal form of force that temporarily incapacitates with a searing burning pain in the eyes, nose and mouth. People with pre-existing conditions such as cardiac problems and asthma may, however, experience complications.
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