Coming to Your Town Soon!

It seems like US domestic police have a hard time containing their glee when purchasing and testing thermal foggers for use on domestic civilians, as a general media blitz played out accross the country through the late 1960s and early 1970s (The McHenry Plaindealer 1971).

Illinois

In the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago-area police played an outsized role in promoting the propaganda line. The pepper fogger was touted as being able to “empty a house fast” by Cook County Illinois Sheriff Joseph Woods (M. Harris 1969b, 1969c), a definitely off-spec and dangerous use (Nixalite 2009b). The volume of fog emitted was also said to be able to fill Soldier Field (capacity 61,500 fans) in under a minute (M. Harris 1969c). Regardless, the Chicago-area Sheriff decided they needed three of them (M. Harris 1969c). The Sheriff’s Major in charge of chemical arsensal Anthony Yucevicius noted the fogger’s psychological effect on recipients, as well saying

They make a terrifying noise and probably will have a scare effect on crowds. - M. Harris (1969a).

Use expanded among and within states, as by 1972 the Illinois State Police also purchased three foggers, which they trained with in Springfield (Robinson 1972). In news reports, the foggers were described as

a cross between a machine gun, a power lawn mower, and a sun lamp. - Robinson (1972).

Florida

Similarly, following the 1968 Republican National Convention, Florida law enforcement took to the fogger (Cain 1968). In Sanford (1970 pop. 17,393; USCB (1971)), the local police department purchased a fogger for use with CN gas, noting that it could shoot fog 20 ft for up to a 15 minute stretch, and so would be effective for controlling large masses (Cain 1968). They had, however, only used it in training and for demoing to the media (Cain 1968).


Sanford Police Officer Roy Williams shows off a fogger (Orlando Evening Star 1968).

Figure 17: Sanford Police Officer Roy Williams shows off a fogger (Orlando Evening Star 1968).


California

Eager to not be shown up by the police in Berkeley, by 1970, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had already purchased their own fogger for their “big artillery” to use “when other forms of persuasion have failed” and started a media campaign (Michals 1970). The department and new state regulations required officers to be trained in chemical weapons use, which was set up through Officer Robert Hawkins (Michals 1970).


Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Officer demonstrating a fogger (Copley News Service 1970).

Figure 18: Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Officer demonstrating a fogger (Copley News Service 1970).


National Guard

Following the Kent State Massacre, the Ohio National Guard, as well as others around the country began equipping their forces with thermal foggers, using the death of those students as justification for massive purchaing of “less lethal” options (Bandy 1970).

Small Town USA

No matter the size of the town, by the early 70s, police wanted in on that sweet sweet fogger action. The Brigham City (Utah; 1970 pop. 14,007; USCB (1971)) Police Department leveraged federal Omnibus Crime Act money to purchase a variety of weapons to use against protesters in 1971 (Box Elder Agencies 1971).

Police Chief Jay Christensen noted that the fogger provides a longer shelf-life than grenades and reportage noted that it

emits a continuous stream of smoke, chemical irritants, or whatever solution is fed into it. [emphasis added] - Robinson (1972)

Use of federal funds to purchase chemical weapons, and specifically foggers, was not limited to one department. Cities, counties, and states across the country used Omnibus Crime Bill money to up their chemical weapons caches, including foggers (Conheim 1972). For example, Oakland County in Michigan (1970 pop. 907,871; USCB (1971)) purchased two pepper foggers for their South County Tactical Mobile Unit with part of their $21,066 in 1970 (Conheim 1972).

Oneota New York (1970 pop. 16,030; USCB (1971)) purchased a fogger in 1969 during the anti-war demonstrations, although the department bungled its response to protests (Griffin 1973). As came to light during a public probe, Oneota Police Chief Joseph F. DeSalvatore requested a limited amount of training in the budget, and officers were therefore unable to deploy the fogger or other chemical weapons (Griffin 1973).

Gaston County North Caolina (1970 pop. 47,322; USCB (1971)) Sheriffs purchased a fogger, which they turned on but not used to dispense agents multiple times by 1970 in their jail system “when there’s been trouble brewing” (The Gastonian Gazette Sun 1970a).


Gaston County Sheriff’s Deputy Anne Huffsteller poses with a thermal fogger (The Gastonian Gazette Sun 1970b).

Figure 19: Gaston County Sheriff’s Deputy Anne Huffsteller poses with a thermal fogger (The Gastonian Gazette Sun 1970b).


Apparently the threat of death by chemical weapons fog is sufficient to scare detained individuals into compliance.

Within a few years, however, departments began to realize they had no need for the machines, and began selling them with no use aside from testing (Des Moines Tribune 1975). The Storm Lake Iowa (1970 pop. 8,591; USCB (1971)) purchased a fogger in 1971 in advance of a motorcycle rally that never happened, and used free advertising in local media in attempts to pawn it (Des Moines Tribune 1975). The article/ad mentions that officers have used foggers “on occasion” in Des Moines (Iowa’s capital; 1970 pop. 201,404; USCB (1971)) in addition to one instance on the University of Iowa’s campus (Des Moines Tribune 1975), although I have not located contemporaneous mentions.