Q&A: How this less-lethal gel and antidote combo gives cops a safer, more effective tool
A detective and a doctor explain why Presidia Gel and Reflex Remove close the gap when it comes to self-defense and why they both carry it on the job
Sponsored by Reflex Protect Tactical
By Police1 BrandFocus Staff
Between verbal commands and electronic weapons, there’s a significant lack of options for police officers trying to gain compliance. For example, OC/pepper spray can contaminate bystanders as well as the officer – and the chemical, which causes pain for an hour or more, has no antidote and causes severe reactions in some people.
Both police critics and patrol officers want better tools for these confrontations. The combination of Reflex Protect Presidia Gel and Reflex Remove has been designed to close the gap when it comes to less-lethal options, providing a tool to disable a hostile subject as well as provide rapid relief once they are under control.
Here, two of the product’s early adopters tell Police1 why the gel and its antidote fill a key need for law enforcement, as well as provide greater effectiveness and safety. (The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
- Dan Kirby, currently a detective in northeastern Ohio, has been a police officer for more than 30 years. He is also an instructor, formerly teaching firearms and less-lethal weapons courses (including the user course for Presidia Gel and Reflex Remove), currently teaching edged weapons and CCW.
- Dr. Bayne French, MD, DC, is a physician in Montana. An avid outdoorsman familiar with the limitations of OC (as bear spray), he adopted Presidia Gel and Reflex Remove for use in his clinic and wrote a white paper detailing the safety and effectiveness of these tools.
CURRENT LESS-LETHAL OPTIONS ON A COP’S BELT MAY INCLUDE OC/PEPPER SPRAY OR CN/CS SPRAY. WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF THOSE TOOLS?
Detective Dan Kirby: You can’t get within 2 or 3 feet of someone that’s been sprayed with the old products, because you’re going to get the same effects or similar effects that you just put down on your suspect. And again, you put him in the back of your police car, you have the heat on, by the time you get to where you’re going, you’re suffering similar symptoms – your eyes are burning, and your nose is running, the whole nine yards, so that’s why I didn’t carry it for a number of years. I taught others how to use those older products but didn’t carry it myself.
With the new product from Reflex Protect, that doesn’t happen. I’ve been telling everybody and their brother about it, not because I’m getting any compensation, but because it’s a fantastic tool.
Dr. Bayne French: I grew up in the mountains here in northwest Montana, and I started to carry bear spray (an OC product) in the late ’80s. Once in a while we’d spray it, and you couldn’t even go in the vicinity. We’d be coughing all the way home. But I carried it religiously. And then finally I sprayed a charging grizzly with it in 1992, and it probably saved me from a bad mauling. It was just incredibly potent. But on the way out from that encounter I sprayed myself. That was a horrible experience – but I could still function and see and run.
HAVE YOU SEEN ANYONE ABLE TO FIGHT AFTER DEPLOYING PRESIDIA GEL?
Kirby: Not with this product. It’s an instant irritant. It’s very difficult once you’ve been sprayed with this product to physically open your eyes, and that’s one of the things we need, because if we’re deploying this in a critical instance, in between using strong language and a firearm, we want it to work quickly. We want it to be instantaneous. We want to be able to control our subject, get him in custody and then decontaminate him. And this product is the silver bullet that fills that gap.
French: I dropped like a sack of potatoes. Having been hit with bear spray, I thought I’d be able to laugh through it and communicate what I’m feeling, but within just seconds of getting hit with Presidia Gel, as soon as I blinked, I was absolutely and utterly crippled.
HOW IS PRESIDIA GEL DIFFERENT FROM OTHER LESS-LETHAL SPRAY TOOLS?
French: CS is a tried-and-true chemical that, as uncomfortable as it is, does have a track record of safety. The game-changing issue is the formulation of Presidia Gel. They’re taking this chemical (CS, aka chlorobenzyl malononitrile) and linking it with a sticky gel so it is not aerosolized. It is not a gas. It’s a liquid, and that has made it a profound jump forward from what was available before.
Kirby: The gel is the game changer, because if you’re standing in a crowd, outside, and you go to use the old products, you would spray everybody standing around. The old spray was like a shotgun, where this is much more like a rifle. Instead of hitting five or six people with the old aerosol sprays, including yourself, you can really narrow it down and soak someone if you have to.
French: The collateral damage is extensive with an aerosol. Just like hairspray, it would fill a jail cell or a vehicle and displace oxygen and go deep into the respiratory tree. Even though CS has a pretty safe track record, when it’s aerosolized like that, the risk of displacing oxygen can be serious, especially if somebody’s already compromised. If they have asthma or emphysema, or they’re on some type of drug or alcohol that decreases respiratory drive anyway, the risk goes way up.
Kirby: A lot of the individuals that we’re using this on are people that are under the influence of opiates where they’re already compromised. They’re going to have respiratory issues, especially now with the COVID explosion. Even though people have COVID, they get arrested every day. And they don’t comply. Presidia Gel allows us to have a safer barrier, again, to fill that niche.
French: Between 3% to 10% of people have symptoms severe enough that they need to be seen, either in an urgent care or an ER. OC spray really causes a dump of a chemical called Substance P, basically a neurotransmitter, and that’s what’s responsible for low blood pressure and people falling over. It can cause vomiting.
And as part of my research looking at CS and its connection with immune system activation and inflammation and Substance P – CS just doesn’t have anywhere near the effect on the immune system. I would consider it having very weak inflammatory effects, which is why we don’t see blistering or ulceration of skin, which is another huge advantage of Presidia Gel.
HOW DOES THE DECONTAMINATION PROCESS WORK? HOW QUICKLY DOES REFLEX REMOVE PROVIDE RELIEF?
Kirby: The decontamination is amazing, because in the past, it was 30 minutes to an hour and a half with the other aerosol products. With Presidia Gel and Reflex Remove, it’s 10, 15, 20 minutes max. That individual may have red eyes, but they’re no longer burning, they’re no longer suffering, and they start to get back to normal.
When you would apply prior products to those individuals that resist, oftentimes the jail wouldn’t take them. You’d have to take them to the hospital and get them checked out if their eyes were still burning or they were still complaining they couldn’t breathe. We would have to take more time out of our patrol to take them to the hospital where they could be checked out by a doctor and then released and transported back from the hospital to the jail.
French: Reflex Remove is chemically engineered to do this, and it works very quickly. Also, because the gel is not being deeply inhaled, it allows the Reflex Remove to be incredibly effective because it’s able to make immediate contact with the chemical.
If something in my line of work came along that offered even a couple percent improvement in efficacy or less side effects, we would be all over it – and it’s not just a modest improvement we’re talking about with Presidia Gel. It is such just a colossal improvement.
HOW COULD PRESIDIA GEL BE USED IN THE CORRECTIONS ENVIRONMENT OR FOR CROWD CONTROL?
Kirby: A lot of the time in riot control, you’re looking for the shotgun effect. It all depends on whether you’re trying to displace the group or you’re trying to remove the agitators and the people that are egging everyone on. If you’re going in with the motivation that you want to take out the primary aggressors, you want to cut the head off the snake, and you know where those are, then you can use the Presidia Gel surgically and pick those individuals out of a crowd.
This is a game changer for corrections as well, because you don’t have to shut down a whole block of six or 12 cells if you have to do an extraction, and you don’t have to decontaminate a whole section, because the new gel product goes exactly where you’re spraying it.
I helped train corrections officers using this for prisoner extraction. If you have one prisoner that’s in the block that’s giving you a problem, and you deploy any of those older products, you just sprayed the prisoners in the surrounding cells. There’s no way to get around it. The air circulates, the heat is on, the air conditioning is on, and you just contaminated everything.
Now they don’t have to worry about it. You’re only deploying Presidia Gel in the area where you need it. Once you get your subject out, you go back in and decontaminate, which is quick and easy, and you’re done.
Visit Reflex Protect Tactical for more information. (Please note that Presidia Gel is currently not an EPA registered product, and therefore cannot be used on bears or canines.)