Consent decree calls for NOPD to get rid of pepper spray - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Consent decree calls for NOPD to get rid of pepper spray

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New Orleans, La. -

NOPD officers will soon have one less crimefighting weapon in their arsenal. As part of the federal consent decree, the department will do away with pepper spray.

New Orleans police officers are currently equipped with two different devices that can help subdue subjects: pepper spray and electronic control devices or tasers.

The NOPD owns over 800 tasers right now.  But according to supplier Taser International, the NOPD has inquired about the costs of buying 400 more tasers.

As part of Mayor Landrieu's proposed budget for 2013, $600,000 is allocated for the purchase of electronic control weapons or tasers. The $600,000 is a portion of the $7 million the city will spend to implement the consent decree.

In the agreement, the department will do away with pepper spray. A spokesperson for the NOPD says officers have overwhelmingly chosen the taser over pepper spray anytime they feel threatened, are physically attacked or must defend others.

But Raymond Burkart III, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, says officers he speaks with would like to have the pepper spray. 

Burkart said, "We have heard no negative feedback from our officers with regard to the pepper spray. In fact, we had a testimony from one of our instructors at the academy during the September 21st fairness hearing, where he recommended we not get rid of the pepper spray."

Burkart says pepper spray is safer to use in some situations than tasers. "We only use force to subdue to a lawful arrest, the least amount of force necessary. And I have trouble, and so do some of our members, that the least amount of force is an electrical charge through somebody's body versus a mild irritant to the eyes," Burkart said.

Police officers in many cities across the country carry pepper spray.  The Department of Justice, who helped draft the consent decree with the NOPD, wouldn't comment as to why the pepper spray is being removed.

Burkart says officers he represents just want to make sure they have every tool possible when dealing with the public, saying, "I know that our members want that option and we want an explanation, a real explanation as to why we can't have it."

The NOPD also tells us that some tasers come with video and audio capacity, which can provide a permanent record of the situation for both the officers and the people involved.

You can find much more information on this story, courtesy of our investigative partners at The Lens, online at TheLensNola.org.

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