Police replace CS spray with ‘cheaper’ alternative

A man is sprayed in the face during a 2011 'street party' in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. Photograph: Wattie Cheung
A man is sprayed in the face during a 2011 'street party' in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. Photograph: Wattie Cheung
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POLICE in Scotland are replacing CS spray with a more potent alternative in a bid to save money and reduce the risk of innocent bystanders being hit.

Force chiefs said they are moving to the incapacitant PAVA, a form of pepper spray, which also lessened the potential for “somebody to burst into flames”, which CS carries.

CS was first introduced across the country between 1999 and 2001, but the force will now issue officers with PAVA – pelargonic acid vanillylamide.

PAVA was controversially used on inmates at HMP Grampian recently after a disturbance at the prison, the first time it had been deployed by the Scottish Prison Service in seven years.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said it made “sound operational and fiscal sense” to make the switch.

He said: “We’ve never entirely been satisfied with CS. However, the first generation of PAVA wasn’t deemed to be what we were looking for – the new generation is.

“And again, in these austere times, it’s cheaper than CS. We have to replace CS, so why don’t we replace it with a cheaper product that gives us the same operational effectiveness and negates some of the issues around contamination and potential for somebody to burst into flames.”

The police believe the use of PAVA makes “cross contamination” – where bystanders are inadvertently affected by the spray – less likely.

A recent study carried out by the Home Office found PAVA could be deployed more accurately and was also less flammable.

Differences in the composition of the two solutions means PAVA has higher discharge rates, resulting in a faster jet of spray.

The study found that for PAVA to be effective, it had to be sprayed directly into the eyes, requiring a greater degree of accuracy.

“While a small number of officers suggested that this can be negative in stressful situations, it also has benefits as the spray is only considered to affect those that have been hit directly and therefore does not affect bystanders or police,” the report noted.

Police officers who took part in the study, however, noted that PAVA was the stronger of the two substances and more difficult to “fight through” than CS.

In Police Scotland, firearms and public order officers have been among the first to make the switch, with the majority of frontline officers expected to be equipped with the spray by the end of the year.

Benefits of PAVA:

• Tayside Police became the first force to use PAVA in 2008

• Less chance of bystanders inadvertently affected when discharged

• PAVA is non-flammable

• Cheaper product giving same operational effectiveness