Death After Pepper Spray Raises Questions

A mentally ill man died not long after being pepper sprayed, the New Zealand Herald reported, prompting criticism of a “cavalier approach to using incapacitating weapons.”

Henry Bailey was confronted by police responding to an emergency call by his roommate, who said that Bailey had assaulted him.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Bailey fought briefly with the officers, who tried to handcuff him, then carried out a threat to use pepper spray to subdue him.

A neighbor said Bailey, who was in his 40s, had been released from mental health services about a year ago, and was well- behaved.

Bailey is the fourth mentally ill person to die following pepper- spray use in New Zealand in nine years, though the spray itself was not always blamed for those deaths.

A mental health executive said there was little research about the use of pepper spray — and also Tasers — on mentally ill people, and one doctor said he was concerned about whether “protocols for the use of pepper spray” were followed with Bailey.


“Pepper-spray death brings research call”
New Zealand Herald, February 8, 2008

2 thoughts on “Death After Pepper Spray Raises Questions

  1. I think this issue can aware some people to use this pepper spray on mentally ill people. This is a great blog exposing such facts.

  2. Choke hold, straight jacket, pepper spray and now the Tazer. The deaths all have commonalities.

    These are;
    1) the client is in a state of severe mental distress and/or psychosis and as a result these alternate control tactics are used.

    2) After the client is down, two or more persons “hold them down” to administer restraints such as hand-cuffs, hog ties or years ago straight jackets.

    Death occurs in a percentage of these events, and the first thing we look at is the item used to initially get the client on the ground. It is that tool we blame for the death and are appalled when a coroner or medical examiner finds no cause of death directly related.

    It is time to look at the second action which occurred prior to death. The holding tight of the majour muscle groups of a person. These reason for the outburst is in death irrelevant. Though drug induced or even fatigue induced psychosis may be what has got the the attention from police or mental health staff in the first place, it is what happens in the last few seconds of the interaction we must now focus. Holding the client firm, still and tight while possibly pressing in the centre of the back while laying on the chest. This is the common denominator in all of these deaths. Let’s bring this to the attention of those training police and mental health workers.

    We now have tools available to control the outbursts by temporarily allowing others to get in close and take the client down. Don’t blame the tools. Blame the poor training on handling the client after.