Since University of California at Davis police pepper-sprayed protesting students, setting off a firestorm of Youtube commentary and national debate about police brutality, there has been a question about whether or not police officers at Davis followed correct procedures in the application of the pepper spray.
Speculation has centered on the specific brand of pepper spray or mace used by UC Davis police officers, with the consensus being that it was some model of the MK-9 First Defense pepper spray produced by Defense Technology, located in Casper, Wyoming.
Described by the company as “The world’s most widely used pepper spray in law enforcement and corrections”, the MK-9 comes in a number of versions and strengths of OC intensity rating (“OC” for Oleoresin Capsicum, a form of the intensely irritating chemical found in chili peppers).
The US government concludes about the main physical effect of OC: “The predominant symptom after exposure to OC was pain.”
It appears, from an examination of stills from Youtube videos of the UC Davis incident that Lt. John Pike was employing what is known as the MK-9 .7% Orange Band, using a “cone” delivery system. Defense Technology describes the Orange Band product a “significantly more intense than previous formulations.”
All the MK-9 products come with specifications for “safe use”, indicating the minimum recommended distance for employing the product against targets is six feet.
Yet, videos of the UC Davis incident clearly show Lt. Pike spraying seated students in their faces at distances of 3 feet or less, and certainly much less than 6 feet. After Pike calls in officers to remove the students, another officer is seen on one video spraying students at one end of the line directly in their faces, at distances that appear to be one foot or less.
A material safety data sheet supplied by Defense Technology for the MK9 product in question, indicates that even when used properly the product can cause:
• “Acute eye, skin, digestive and respiratory system irritation”.
• “Moderate to Severe irritation. Cough, rhinorrhea [runny nose], sneezing, chest tightness, and laryngospasm [difficulty breathing].
• “Inhalation of large amounts may cause an anesthetic effect.”
One warning concerning “ingestion”, which is possible with close-range or concentrated application of the product, indicates “liquid concentrate can cause dizziness, nausea and a burning sensation. Nausea is common; vomiting occurs occasionally.”
A number of students were made ill by the pepper spray used in the UC Davis incident and two were sent to the hospital. An investigation continues.