A Queensland Police officer has been stood down and is under internal investigation after a video emerged of him allegedly standing by while a young man sprayed himself in the face with police-issue pepper spray.
- A social media video appears to show a police officer standing by a man who pepper sprays himself
- The police Ethical Standards Command is investigating
- A criminologist says allowing the public to use pepper spray would be akin to allowing them to use tasers
The Gold Coast officer was the subject of a viral video that was shared last month with the caption, “Pepper sprayed by the cops but make it more DIY”.
In the video, an officer is seen standing beside a man who is handling what appears to be a canister of pepper spray.
The man’s friends can be heard in the background and the officer can be heard telling the man the effects last for “hours” moments before he sprays himself in the eyes and mouth.
The video has since been deleted from the poster’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
Oleoresin capsicum spray, known as OC spray or pepper spray, is classified as a ‘Category R’ weapon in Queensland — the same category of weapon as machine guns and military hardware such as grenades and rocket launchers.
It is illegal for members of the public to possess pepper spray without a licence.
Strict rules govern its use by police including training, compulsory reporting as a use-of-force incident, and a duty of care to assist in the recovery.
Akin to using a taser
The spray causes a painful burning sensation to exposed skin, and on contact with the eyes causes the eyelids to spasm and shut, according to a New South Wales Police manual on its use.
The symptoms usually last between 45 minutes to two hours, but are found to have no long-lasting or hazardous effects on the human body.
In a statement, the Queensland Police Service said it was “treating this matter very seriously and it is under active investigation by Ethical Standards Command”.
Bond University criminologist and former Queensland police detective, Terry Goldsworthy, said he believed allowing a person to use pepper spray would be akin to an officer letting a member of the public use their taser.
“The police have these use of force options for dealing with offenders. They’re not there to go out and be a public relations tool,” he said.