The business of tear gas
U.S. forces yesterday used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House gates, prior to a declared curfew, clearing a path for President Trump to visit a riot-damaged church for a photo opportunity.
The state of play: Two of the largest U.S. producers of tear gas are owned by private equity firms, but those firms have no interest in discussing their ownership.
There is no federal tracking of tear gas usage by U.S. law enforcement, thus making it difficult to determine which company's products are used most regularly. But several outside research firms have determined that market leaders include:
Combined Systems of Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
- The company was acquired in 2005 by Point Lookout Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm whose portfolio is dominated by law enforcement-related investments. Point Lookout didn't return interview requests.
- The Carlyle Group also participated in that deal as a minority investor. It was made out of an old fund that's already closed with its assets sold, but Carlyle retains a residual equity piece in a trust that it's been unable to exit.
- A source close to the firm says that Carlyle would not make such an investment today, because it would violate the firm's "responsible investing guidelines."
Safariland of Jacksonville, Florida.
- The 56-year-old company was acquired in 2012 by a consortium, which includes Palm Beach Capital, from BAE Systems for $124 million.
- Palm Beach Capital didn't return an interview request.
- That deal also included Warren Kanders, a onetime investment banker who last summer stepped down as vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art due to protests over his Safariland involvement.
Tear gas isn't really a gas. It's a pressurized powder that mists upon deployment and can cause choking and other symptoms beyond tears. It also lives in a legal gray zone, due to international treaties that allow it to be used in domestic law enforcement but not in war.
- Many in law enforcement argue that tear gas ultimately saves lives of both police and protesters, as conflicts could otherwise turn deadly.
- But, as we saw last night live on TV, it can also be abused with impunity.
The bottom line: Private equity firms typically take every opportunity to talk about their portfolio companies, proud of their products and management teams. In this case, they're silent.
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Albany Squanders an Opportunity to Ban Chemical Weapons
It’s one thing for politicians to proclaim that they support calls for racial justice and reining in police abuse. But all too often, when the time comes to actually enact change, our leaders get cold feet.
This was on full display during an Albany Common Council vote earlier this month on a bill known as Local Law C. The bill would have barred the Albany Police Department from using chemical weapons like tear gas and “kinetic energy munitions” such as rubber bullets.
The bill was voted down even though only four of the 15 council members voted against it. But because four council members – including one of the bill’s sponsors – voted “present,” instead of taking a position on the legislation, the bill failed.
This decision will undoubtedly have serious negative consequences for the health, safety, and rights of people in Albany. Inhaling tear gas doesn’t just cause eye irritation and pain, it also attacks the skin, lungs, and mouth. The gas – which is banned even during wars under the Geneva Conventions – often causes coughing, vomiting, chest tightness, nausea, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Exposure can even result in glaucoma, fatal respiratory failure, and death from chemical throat and lung burns.
The APD’s determination to continue using these weapons is but one more example of the nationwide militarization of policing that is now infecting our region.
Rubber bullets can cause serious or fatal injuries, especially if they are used incorrectly in a chaotic situation. These weapons are sometimes called “less than lethal,” but they can and do kill people. A study published in 2017 found that three percent of people hit with rubber bullets die from their injuries and 15 percent were permanently injured.
Tear gas and rubber bullets don’t just have physical consequences, this type of grossly overbroad and excessive force prevents protesters’ exercise of their First Amendment rights.
The bill to ban these dangerous weapons came after the APD unleashed tear gas on Black Lives Matter protesters last year. As the bill sponsors’ original statement of support recounted:
“[T]he damage spread mostly to areas of the City inhabited predominantly by people of color and businesses owned by or serving communities of color… Many residents had their windows open and no way to escape the fumes; or were peaceful protesters or bystanders and residents (including babies and children). It is well established that many of these residents have asthma and other pre-existing conditions that are especially prone to severe reactions to tear gas.”
Joyce Love – one of the council members who voted “present” on the bill – told the press she continues to suffer severe health problems after being caught in the APD’s tear gas barrage in the spring of 2020. “My sight has not came back yet,” she said in May. “I'm still dealing with my breathing because I have crystals in my lungs from the tear gas.”
Local Law C’s opponents – including Mayor Kathy Sheehan – pushed for amendments that would have watered down the legislation. One proposed amendment, for example, would have allowed the use of pepper spray and rubber bullets during a riot. But New York’s definition of what constitutes a riot is worryingly vague, and again, these are weapons international treaties bar even during war.
Without the amendments, the legislation was doomed, and an opportunity to begin to demilitarize our police was squandered.
The APD’s determination to continue using these weapons is but one more example of the nationwide militarization of policing that is now infecting our region. During Black Lives Matter protests in Saratoga earlier this summer, law enforcement officers arrived in armored vehicles and battle gear.
And in Troy, police are using state funds to buy a sound cannon that can cause severe hearing loss, along with new tactical battle dress and high-tech equipment for gas masks.
Now Albany appears ready to continue in this dangerous movement. Just a few months after the George Floyd protests, according to a media source that obtained purchase invoices, the APD paid thousands of dollars to replenish and add to its tear gas stock.
Yet public opinion, judging by the Common Council’s multiple public comment periods, is overwhelmingly in favor of Local Law C.
In addition, the city’s own Policing Reform and Reinvention Collaborative report favors a ban. Its report uses unambiguous language: in the section “Interactions with Members of the Community,” goal number one is “Ban the use of tear gas and decrease the use of military style weaponry by the Albany Police Department.”
Yet Local Law C fell victim to political cowardice. The APD and its allies applied immense public and private pressure on council members to scuttle the bill. As so often happens, they got their way.
Common Council President Corey Ellis now claims an alternative to Local Law C is “in the formative stages.” But council members don’t need an alternative. They need to take a stand against police violence.
Safariland, the controversial maker of the tear gas used to clear protesters near the White House last week, and two of its distributors have generated more than $137 million in sales from the U.S. government in the past three and a half years, according to a CBS MoneyWatch review of federal spending data.
The sales, up from $83 million in the prior three-and-a-half-year period, do not include money spent by local law-enforcement agencies on Safariland tear gas. There have been multiple reports of tear gas used on protesters in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died in police custody last month, and elsewhere in recent weeks as protests against police racism spread across the country.
Federal records show the Department of Justice last year bought 160 canisters of Spede-Heat from distributor A2Z Supply. Spede-Heat canisters hold mace gas and can be shot from a distance of as much 150 feet. The canisters cost about $26 each and are manufactured by Safariland subsidiary Defense Technology.
Safariland's website says Spede-Heat should not be shot directly at people because "serious injury or death may result." A Spede-Heat canister was among the tear gas devices found by a local Washington, D.C., CBS reporter near the White House last week.
Safariland's production of tear gas and its use by the U.S. as well as foreign governments has propelled the growth of the company in recent years. It also has made Safariland a pariah on Wall Street, and its CEO, Warren Kanders, a target for activists. Private equity powerhouses Blackstone Group and KKR have exited their investments in Safariland in the past few years following public criticism for their ties to the company.
Safariland is one of the largest companies in the multi-billion dollar — and growing — business of supplying tear gas to federal agencies, police departments and foreign governments. It also makes rubber bullets and batons, as well as helmets and body armor. Safariland has about $500 million in revenue and 600 employees.
In 2016, research firm Marketsandmarkets estimated that the non-lethal weapons market would grow by more than 8% a year through 2020 to $8.4 billion, driven in part by "political disputes, violence and civil unrest." The report pointed to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia as potential growth markets for tear gas and other non-lethal weapons.
Earlier this week, market research firm Orbis Research issued a 100-page report on opportunities in the "Riot Control Systems" market. Safariland is listed as one of the industry's top players.
Kanders, with an estimated net worth of $700 million, according to Forbes, was pressured to quit the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art last year following months of protest after it was found that Safariland supplied the tear gas fired on a group of asylum seekers, including children, at the U.S.-Mexico border. At the time, Kanders said that he was not a fair target, emphasizing that his company helps save police officers lives.
In addition to Safariland, Kanders also heads Clarus Corp., a $340 million publicly traded sporting equipment conglomerate of which he owns more than 20%. Clarus disclosed in an April filing that it paid Kanders $5.5 million in salary, stock and other compensation over the past three years.
Last week, the Instagram page of Clarus's popular mountain climbing brand Black Diamond posted a black page in solidarity with anti-police violence protesters across the U.S. On Saturday, in a statement on Instagram, the company acknowledged it was aware of "widespread concerns" about its "association" with Kanders and Safariland. The statement said the company supports Black Lives Matters and "peaceful protesters." It also pledged to donate $250,000 to support "peoples of color in the outdoors."
Safariland was started as a holster company in the 1960s by California entrepreneur Neale Perkins, who named the company after trips he had taken to Africa with his father. In 2004, Goldman Sachs helped the company raise $300 million in a structured finance deal. Kanders acquired control of the company in 2012 and became its CEO in a leveraged buyout with the help of private equity giant Blackstone, which bought a minority stake in the company and eventually lent it up $160 million.
Safariland declined to comment for this article.
Safariland doesn't disclose its financial information. But it had $45 million in annual operating profits, according to a 2015 article in Private Debt Investor. That was up from $10 million when Kanders bought it just three years earlier, accord to the trade publication. Kanders said at the time that Blackstone had been instrumental in helping him grow the company.
Blackstone transferred its stake in Safariland to rival private equity firm KKR in 2018 through a complex transaction that involved dozens of loans. A Blackstone spokesperson confirmed to CBS MoneyWatch that it no longer has any financial ties to Safariland. KKR earlier this year sold its remaining stake after it also faced public criticism for its ties to the company.
KKR and Blackstone aren't the only private equity firms that have financed companies that make tear gas. Carlyle Group is a minority owner of Combined Systems, which is also a producer of chemical weapons for law enforcement.
Combined Systems recorded $3.8 million in sales to the federal government last year, up from $2.3 million in 2018. Just over $1.8 million in sales came from chemical-dispensing and stun grenades.
A source close to Carlyle Group told CBS MoneyWatch that the firm's small stake in Combined Systems produces no income for the firm and that it has been written down to zero.
Pacem Solutions, a privately owned manufacturer of tear gas weapons, named Joseph Schmitz, a former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, as its chief legal officer and chair of its advisory board in 2018. The following year, Pacem had more than $1 million in sales to the federal government, up from zero in the previous decade. Nearly $150,000 of those sales are listed as for "military chemical agents," according to federal records.
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mr. Trump and other government officials on behalf of the Washington, D.C., chapter of Black Lives Matter. The suit claims the use of tear gas on the protesters violated their constitutional rights.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's human rights program, said the organization has previously looked into the issue of whether makers of tear gas can be held liable for injuries caused by their products, but is now focused on law enforcement's use of the weapons.
Dakwar said the ALCU has long had concerns about the use of tear gas and that the coronavirus pandemic amplifies those objections given the damage it can do to people's lungs. Tear gas tends to cause people to cough, as well as burn the eyes.
"It creates a severe health risk to people who are subject to it," Dakwar said. "We have been contacted by a number of members of Congress to look at the way tear gas is being used."
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Gas stock tear
Welcome to the most trusted and comprehensive Tear Gas directory on the Internet. A broad range of Tear Gas resources are compiled in this industrial portal which provides information on manufacturers, distributors and service companies in the Tear Gas industry.
Manufacturer Of Sabre (CS Tear Gas & OC Red Pepper) & Sabre Red (OC) Defense Sprays For Law Enforcement & Civilians. The Civilian Sprays Have Seven Canister Sizes & Seventeen Different Models. Law Enforcement Line Contains 2, 3, 4, & An 11 oz. Riot Control Model. Five Different Firing Mechanisms For Law Enforcement, & Customized Formulations To Meet Individual Department's Specs. The Environmentally Friendly Formulation Of Frontiersman & Alaska's Best Defense Outdoor Sprays, Allow For Protection Of Violent Attacks From Wild Animals
ISO/IEC 17025:2005 certified distributor of specialty gases including cyclopropane, anesthetic, fumigant & tear gases. Specialty gases are available in cylinders, micro-bulk delivery systems, custom designed tanks/containers & bulk gas storage systems. Specialty gases are also available in pure or custom mixes. Installation, calibration, testing, repairing & on-site inspection services are available. Same day emergency delivery available.
Networks of laboratories including six ISO 9002 certified facilities supporting regional specialty gas laboratories with filling locations & service locations nationwide. High performance gases for demanding applications & a complete line of industrial & specialty gases & equipment.
Manufacturer Of Special Purpose Low Lethality Anti Terrorist Munitions In Two Major Categories. Stun Grenades Are Full Power Munitions Designed To Instantly & Temporarily Incapacitate A Violent Individual. Diversion Distraction Devices Are Lower Powered Devices That Frighten, Confuse & Distract Violent Individuals. Also Manufacture 12 Gauge Riot Control & Non-Lethal Anti-Personnel Rounds. Training Classes Available To Certify Personnel In Use Of These Munitions
Distributor of public safety equipment. Badges, binoculars, body armor, clothing, firefighter, EMS, first aid equipment, teargas, spotlights, flashlights, restraints, guns, gun accessories, tactical gear.
Manufacturer and supplier of tear gas for the defense and ndustry.
Manufacturer Of A Complete Line Of Riot Control & Specialty Law Enforcement & Ammunition Such As Tear Gas
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"Tear gas and other chemical demonstration control agents (DCAs) have long been used on the civilian population, even though they have been banned in warfare," said Jennifer Brown, lead author and a neuroscience graduate student at the U of M Medical School. "Most of the published research on these chemicals was done in the 1960s and 1970s and has not been updated, though the DCAs and their methods of deployment have continued to evolve. In our research, we gave special attention to repeated exposure or longitudinal studies, which might provide insight into the poorly understood long-term effects of these chemicals. "
Published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology, the study team found that:
- the research used to determine the current acute exposure guideline levels for CS gas -- one common type of DCA -- were based on lethal dose experiments in animals;
- the results from the animal lethal dose study were scaled up to humans using a non-exact formula;
- the current exposure guidelines do not accurately recapitulate the circumstances of human exposures, which involve variables such as duration of exposure, the health status of the individual, previous exposure history and the variety of chemicals in both the DCAs and solvents; and,
- the EPA identifies no exposure concentration at which the effects of CS gas could be considered as mild -- discomfort or non-disabling. The lowest exposure listed is already irreversible or serious, long-lasting effects or impaired ability to escape the gas.
"Conclusions that CS gas does not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, such as those with asthma or high blood pressure, are based on studies that largely used exclusively male and very small sample groups that did not follow up any further than one week after exposure," Brown said. "Moreover, this conclusion ignores the finding that people with hypertension did, in fact, have a greater and prolonged increase in blood pressure compared to non-hypertensive subjects following CS exposure."
"Additionally, people with asthma experienced more severe chest symptoms immediately after exposure, and there are even reports of death as a result of the combination of asthma and DCA exposure," Brown added. "Since there is evidence that some symptoms can develop after a delay, failure to monitor past the acute exposure could lead to under-reporting of DCA health effects."
Brown and colleagues noted that the chemical DCAs used on civilians are poorly studied and poorly regulated, and more rigorous exposure follow-up is needed before they can be declared safe. In the meantime, the research team says increased regulatory scrutiny could decrease the risks to both individuals and the environment.
"We need to continue raising awareness about this issue and working to achieve improved oversight on both the use and manufacturing of these chemical weapons," Brown said.
More recent studies and case reports describe significant negative health effects that were either overlooked or not included in the design of earlier experiments. Some of these impacts included menstrual cycle disruption in women, negative effects on mental health and lingering respiratory problems. Additionally, more inclusive research is needed to parse the effects on different body systems and different demographic groups, including women, pregnant women, children and people with pre-existing conditions.
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Materials provided by University of Minnesota. Original written by Kat Dodge. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Jennifer L. Brown, Carey E. Lyons, Carlee Toddes, Timothy Monko, Roman Tyshynsky. Reevaluating tear gas toxicity and safety. Inhalation Toxicology, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1080/08958378.2021.1963887
Cite This Page:
University of Minnesota. "Little research available on the long-term effects of tear gas use." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210920111357.htm>.
University of Minnesota. (2021, September 20). Little research available on the long-term effects of tear gas use. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 17, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210920111357.htm
University of Minnesota. "Little research available on the long-term effects of tear gas use." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210920111357.htm (accessed October 17, 2021).
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