504 – Use of Chemical Weapons

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Chemical weapons are considered soft intermediate less-lethal weapons, and training in their proper application is required prior to their use. Chemical weapons are designed to result in temporary dysfunction without causing physical injury.


Only licensed peace officers and detention officers (licensed jailers) who have successfully completed a Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) approved course of instruction through the HCSO Academy on the use of chemical weapons may carry or use such chemical weapons. [CALEA Standard 4.1.4]

Biennial (every two years) in-service training for all personnel authorized to carry and use less-lethal weapons will be documented and coordinated with the HCSO Academy.

Failure to complete biennial in-service training for less-lethal weapons will result in the employee’s authorization to carry the weapons being revoked.

Authorized Chemical Weapons

Only the below listed aerosol spray chemical weapons with the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC) is authorized for use by HCSO employees: [CALEA Standard 4.3.1]

  1. Def-Tec, MK-3 and MK-4, stream or foam spray only;
  2. Guardian, Body Guard LE, 3BG10 and 44GBG10, stream or foam spray only;
  3. Sabre Defense, MK-3 and MK-4, stream or foam spray only; and
  4. Sabre Red MK-9 Fog (crowd dispersal / group control).

Uniformed personnel shall carry the canister in an appropriate holster

Licensed peace officers

Authorized Sam Browne duty belt holster

Licensed jailers

  1. High gloss or nylon holster for the MK-4
  2. Nylon thigh holster for the MK-9

Some Practical Uses of Chemical Weapons

  1. Repel human and animal attacks;
  2. Temporarily incapacitate violently resisting subjects;
  3. Compel barricaded subjects to leave an enclosure; and
  4. Disperse violent crowds or riots.


Whenever possible, deputies and detention officers should be upwind from the suspect before deploying OC and should avoid entering the spray area for a few seconds.

Deputies and detention officers should maintain a safe distance from the suspect, between four and six feet, and should avoid spraying a suspect when closer than three feet.

Actuating the OC spray should be done in two consecutive ½ to 1 second bursts. The primary target should be the subject’s eyes with the nose and mouth as secondary targets.

Use of OC should be avoided, if possible, under conditions when it may affect innocent bystanders.

Restrictions on Usage

Deputies and detention officers will not use chemical weapons on subjects exhibiting only verbal or passive resistance to arrest or authority.

Deputies and detention officers will not use chemical weapons on subjects who are under physical restraint unless the subject is still violently resisting, and lesser means of controlling the subject have failed.

Chemical weapons will not be brought into or used in any HCSO detention or holding facility without authorization from the bureau commander.

Requirements After OC Deployment

Persons who have been subjected to chemical weapons will, as soon as they are under control, be afforded means of cleansing the chemical agent to lessen the discomfort.

Deputies and detention officers will ensure any person sprayed with OC is treated at the scene by medical personnel. [CALEA Standard 4.1.5]

Deputies and detention officers will ensure that, when transporting a prisoner who has been subjected to chemical weapons, the prisoner is not placed in a prone position and stays upright with a clear airway to avoid possible positional asphyxia.

Deputies and detention officers must be especially careful when tightly-restraining combative subjects following use of chemical weapons.

A deputy or detention officer who has used a chemical weapon on a subject will ensure that a supervisor is notified of the incident as soon as practical. A supervisor will respond to the scene of any incident where a deputy or detention officer deploys OC spray on a subject.

Transporting personnel shall advise jail personnel when an arrested subject has been exposed to chemical weapons.

Any use of chemical weapons (on or off duty) requires an employee’s immediate supervisor to complete a use of force report as outlined in HCSO Department Policy #501 – Use of Force, and the employee shall complete an incident report.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

December 3, 2013

December 5, 2016

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