Force Tools - Oleoresin Capsicum

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: Policy SUBJECT: Force Tools - Oleoresin Capsicum NUMBER: OPER-346.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 4/23/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: ADM.06.01 a, c, d, e LAST MODIFIED: 3/15/2017 LAST REVIEW: 3/15/2017


Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray is issued to deputies as a force tool. Designed to disable a subject without causing permanent physical injury, when used appropriately, OC spray is of limited intrusiveness. Its proper use is a reasonable alternative to a physical struggle with an arrestee and has proven to reduce the likelihood of injury to both suspects and deputies alike.

This policy provides guidelines for the carrying and use of OC spray by San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies.


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to use objectively reasonable force to control or overcome resistance put forth by individuals who are violent, exhibiting threatening or potentially violent behavior, or physically resisting arrest or detention. OC spray may be used by authorized and trained personnel in accordance with legal parameters and Sheriff’s Office policies.


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:

  • Deputy – All commissioned Sheriff’s Office personnel regardless of rank as well as reserve deputies while acting in their official capacity for the Sheriff’s Office.

  • OC Instructor – A sworn employee who holds a current General Police Instructor certification from NMDPS as well as a current instructor certification for OC spray.

  • OC Spray– Short for Oleoresin Capsicum, an inflammatory chemical agent designed to cause mucous membranes to swell, producing an immediate closing of the eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, and a sensation of burning on the skin.



Use of force by deputies is governed by the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy. These two policies are designed to work in conjunction with one another.

OC spray is a force tool designed to control a resistant subject and its use is governed by the same criteria as other use of force tools and techniques. As with all use of force options, deputies are authorized to deploy force in an objectively reasonable manner to control a situation, effect an arrest, overcome resistance to arrest, or defend themselves or others from harm.

Whenever practical, deputies will utilize commands, warnings and verbal persuasion to gain compliance and allow a reasonable opportunity for compliance before resorting to force. Commands, warnings, and verbal persuasion are not required in circumstances where the deputy has to make a split-second decision, or if the deputy reasonably believes that issuing the command or warning would place the safety of the deputy or others in jeopardy.


The Sheriff’s Office will only issue OC spray that is non-flammable and safe for use with an Electronic Control Device. Only OC spray issued by the Sheriff’s Office is permitted for use by deputies.

All deputies, including those assigned to the civil, detective, and training divisions as well those assigned to an administrative function will carry OC spray on their belt or person, ready for use while on duty.

OC spray devices will be maintained in an operational and charged state. OC spray canisters are inventoried and issued by the Sheriff’s Office Equipment Technician. Any depleted, nearly depleted, damaged, inoperable, or expired canisters should be promptly exchanged for a new one.


The use of OC spray is considered a use of force and will be employed in a manner consistent with the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy.

OC spray may be used when verbal dialogue has failed to bring about a subject’s compliance, and the subject has signaled their intention to actively resist arrest, or acts in a manner which is likely to cause harm to himself or others.

Deputies should use only the amount of OC spray that is necessary to achieve the desired effect, which may take several seconds. Once the desired effect is achieved, the use of OC spray must be discontinued.

It is highly recommended that an announcement be made to other deputies on scene prior to deploying OC spray.

Whenever possible, deputies should be upwind from the suspect before using OC spray and should avoid entering the spray area. The effective range of OC spray is approximately 10 feet. Environmental factors can alter this range as windy conditions may make the deployment less effective. Caution should be taken when OC spray is used in close ranges (less than 10 feet) as cross-contamination may occur.

When deploying OC, a short burst should be directed at the suspect’s eyes, nose, and mouth. An additional burst(s) may be used if the initial or subsequent burst(s) proves ineffective. The duration of a burst will vary depending on distance and environmental conditions (wind, confined areas, etc.)

If possible, the use of OC should be avoided, in conditions where it may:

  • affect innocent bystanders;
  • cause a panic (crowded areas); or
  • affect the breathing of small children or elderly adults.

OC spray will not be deployed on:

  • a handcuffed or secured prisoner absent self-destructive or resistive behavior that cannot be safely controlled by other means readily available; or
  • a non-resisting subject who poses no apparent threat to the deputy, themselves, or the public.

Within several seconds of being sprayed by OC, a suspect will normally display symptoms of temporary blindness, difficulty breathing, a burning sensation in the throat, nausea, lung pain, and/or impaired thought processes. Deputies should reassure subjects who have been sprayed that the effects are temporary and encourage them to relax.

All suspects should be handcuffed as soon as safely possible after being sprayed. OC spray is not always effective and the effects can vary among individuals. A subject who has been sprayed can complete a violent or fatal attack. Deputies should be prepared to employ other means to gain control of a subject when the intended result is not achieved.

Deputies are explicitly prohibited from using OC spray in any of the following manners:

  • As a form of punishment;
  • To awaken or motivate unconscious, impaired, or intoxicated individuals;
  • For horseplay, unauthorized demonstrations, or experimental exposures; or
  • For any illegal purpose, such as coercion in an interview.

A deputy may use deadly force to protect themselves from the use or threatened use of OC when a reasonable belief exists that deadly force will be used against them if incapacitation occurs.

The use of OC spray against an aggressive animal is permitted but must be justified and articulable. In the event OC spray is deployed against an aggressive animal, a reasonable effort to notify the owner of such use must be made to avoid cross-contamination issues. This may include leaving a written note of the deployment at a residence if contact cannot be made.


When safe to do so, the subject should be moved away from the affected area, preferably outside for fresh air. EMS will be requested to respond to the scene to begin the decontamination procedure. If a deputy determines the need to begin decontamination prior to the arrival of EMS, fresh water should be continuously flushed over the affected area. At no time should any creams, salves, or lotions be applied.

Subjects that have been sprayed will be monitored continuously for indications of medical problems and not be left alone while in custody.

Assistance will be offered to any individuals accidentally exposed to OC spray who feel the effects of the agent. All such incidents will be reported as soon as possible to the deputy’s immediate supervisor and be detailed in an incident report.


The use of OC spray is considered a Type 2 use of force by the Sheriff’s Office. Pursuant to the Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy, a supervisor will be notified without delay of any incident involving a Type 2 use of force. Once notified, supervisors will immediately respond to the scene and begin a force review which will be investigated and documented pursuant to the Use of Force Review & Reporting Policy.


TRAINING (ADM.06.01 (A) & (C))

No deputy is authorized to carry or use OC spray without successfully completing the mandated training by an OC instructor and demonstrating proficiency. Demonstrating proficiency includes knowing when and how to deploy their issued OC spray as well as performing decontamination. For initial training, deputies must also be exposed to the effects of OC spray in a controlled environment.

Each deputy must attend biennial maintenance training which consists of demonstrating proficiency (exposure is not necessary for maintenance training), legal/equipment updates, and all Sheriff’s Office policies related to the use of OC spray. Proficiency demonstrations will be completed utilizing inert canisters.


  1. SJCSO Policy OPER-304.00 – Use of Force
  2. 2014 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101 Civil Liability Law Section – April 2014
  3. The Effectiveness and Safety of Pepper Spray, NIJ – April 2003
  4. SJCSO Policy OPER-305.00 “Use of Force Review & Reporting”