Representatives of The Left made a motion in the western German state parliament’s home affairs committee Thursday proposing the ban under strong protest from police unions, according to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper.
At present, the measure doesn’t seem likely to pass parliament, although it’s creating widespread consternation among police.
The Left has said that pepper spray use by police contributed to the deaths of six people in Germany between 2009 and 2010, although it is unclear where it is getting its statistics. The party has also pointed to what they say has been its excessive use at the Stuttgart 21 protests and against football fans creating disturbances.
Though pepper spray is widely used by officers as a non-lethal method to subdue suspects, it can sometimes be dangerous to people suffering from asthma or allergies or people under the influence of drugs.
But the GdP police union said it remains an invaluable tool for police officers in a country where other supposedly non-lethal devices – such as high-voltage Tasers – aren’t generally used due to legal concerns.
“Police must be allowed to protect themselves,” said GdP spokesman Stephan Hegger, who told WAZ that banning pepper spray could have unintended effects, such as prompting police officers to use their nightsticks or guns more.
The GdP has said that violence against police officers has been increasing as of late, perhaps prompting an increase in pepper spray use.
Pepper spray has burst into the headlines lately in large part because of recent incidents in the US where police have sprayed apparently non-violent protesters.
Among the most controversial took place at a California university last month when a police officer repeatedly sprayed students affiliated with the Occupy movement who were protesting by peacefully sitting.