Right of Reply: The Chief Constable of Staffordshire responds to our coverage of CS gas use by the police

Click to follow
CS SPRAY, which has been in use by police forces progressively over the last two-and-a-half years, is part of police self-defence equipment. It was introduced partly because of the rising numbers of assaults on police officers, and also because the likelihood of serious injury resulting from its use is far less than that resulting from the use of a baton.

That said, the preferred option for all police officers in resolving conflict is the use of peaceful persuasion by verbal skills. This is imbued in all officers from their day of joining, and is an integral part of all training. The vast majority of potential conflict is resolved by this means, and will continue to be so.

Only if that approach does not work are police justified in considering the use of lawful physical force. Any use of CS spray is subject, as with use of force by police, to scrutiny by the criminal law and the police complaints procedure. No empirical evidence, as opposed to individual and sometimes anonymous anecdote, has been produced in support of the proposition that there is a trend towards officers using CS unnecessarily and as a "soft option". There is no evidence whatsoever at this time of any death having resulted from the use of CS.

It was introduced only after careful examination by scientists for any potential for adverse impact on health. We keep the health position under continual review, but it is clear that the effects, which we openly acknowledge are most unpleasant, generally wear off very quickly.

Police officers are not trained to resort to physical force without good and proper reason. But force is sometimes necessary, and CS is merely one option in that situation. It is helping to reduce injury and disorder, without lasting health effects.