The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) could have pepper spray as part of its non-lethal weapons arsenal by the end of this year, depending on the outcome of joint study with the Caribbean Law Enforcement Foundation (CLEF).
CLEF President David Watson told reporters on the sidelines of the foundation’s launch today at the Regional Security System’s Paragon headquarters that 50 cans of pepper spray had been sent to the RBPF at the start of the year to test its feasibility.
“We want to see the viability of using pepper spray here and once we get the viability of it here, that will act as a template for the other islands. This is just the starting point with the pepper spray. It has been disseminated and [the RBPF] is going to give me a report at the end of the year about how it worked out and where we move from there,” Watson revealed.
It was not immediately clear if local police have used the disabling aerosol spray on anyone here.
In any event, its cost, along with the cost of tasers, could act as a deterrent.
“The use of pepper sprays and tasers boils down to budgets . . . . A can of pepper spray and the holder may run about US$20. That is a lot of money per person, while a taser could run $500 and up . . . but . . . non-lethal equipment is needed because right now other than a baton or a side firearm, there is no other in between there. The pepper spray can solve a lot of issues in terms of settling the situation because usually in most situations the hands will hurt you.
“A person who gets pepper sprayed will put their hands on their face. So pepper spray does solve a lot of issues, but it is does not have an economically viable price tag that most governments can afford. It is not that it is not something that governments want, it is just that they can’t afford it. I think it is a great non-lethal tool,” said Watson, a Barbadian who spent 22 years as a detective with the New York police department.
In recent times, there have been suggestions by the public that tactics used by lawmen could be considered heavy handed, particularly in the apprehension of suspects.
The CLEF president said this was an area with which the foundation was willing to assist.
“We will help guide governments along use of force policies level, but the use of pepper spray . . . has to be worked in there eventually if they are going to use it in the Caribbean. It is a great tool, it is a tool that is needed and it can solve a number of issues when it comes to violent or combative people,” Watson said.
The main aim of the CLEF is to enhance Caribbean law enforcement and first responder agencies by providing funding and equipment for training and technological infrastructure.