Providence Police Department Releases Policies on Use of Pepper Spray

December 7, 2000 12:00 am

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PROVIDENCE, RI–Two days after the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island filed an lawsuit against the police department for refusing to publicly release complete copies of its policies and procedures governing the use of pepper spray, the city has reversed its decision and handed over the policies.

“”It should not take the filing of a lawsuit to obtain information that should have been turned over within 10 days of the first request,”” said ACLU attorney Carolyn A. Mannis. “”In the future we hope that the department will be mindful of its responsibilities under the open records law and will promptly turn over public records no matter who requests them.””

The ACLU initially filed a request for the policies in August, shortly after a burglary suspect in Providence police custody died after being pepper-sprayed.

More than a month after the ACLU filed its request, the department responded by releasing 15 pages of heavily edited documents. Among the sections deleted from the documents were paragraphs under the heading “”physiological effects,”” and information on “”test spraying”” and “”spraying distances.””

With the unedited policies that have now been provided by the Department, the ACLU has learned that the following were among the pieces of information originally deleted:

· Pepper spray “”works effectively on all subjects including those under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or nervous disorders.””

· “”Do not test spray indoors!””

· Spraying downwind “”could affect the user to the point that the officer could not function.””

· “”Primary target areas [in using pepper spray are] face, eyes, nose [and] mouth.

· “”If the officer is on the ground and the subject is standing, the officer is in a vulnerable position to be injured.””

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