Letter: CS gas alarm

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The death of another man with mental health problems following the use of CS ("Man's death raises alarm over police use of CS spray", 11 August) strengthens our long-held view that increased arming of the police and the use of new weapons, be they guns, new-style batons or CS, inevitably results in more deaths. The current review of national police training should look at reducing the use of all weapons by the police unless the Government is prepared to tolerate the continued level of serious injury and loss of life and subsequent loss of confidence in the police.

It appears that the use of CS by the police has become routine in situations where time spent taking could defuse the situation. Spraying people with mental health problems is a violent act that can only frighten the individual and lead to serious injury and in some cases contribute to loss of life. The Government have defended it use on the grounds that it is potentially less harmful than a baton (Lords written answers, 6 August 1998) but the real questions to be asked is why violence is seen as the preferred option above negotiation and dialogue.

HELEN SHAW

Co-Director, Inquest

London N4

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