Do we know which UK companies have supplied crowd control equipment to the US?
We know that DMS Plastics/Protective have supplied their Scorpion shields to the US and that these have been used to suppress protests.
Most of the information we have about other companies comes from export licence application data. For some of these companies, we know that they have applied to export crowd control equipment – watch London CAAT BLM Virtual Tour of UK Companies Arming Repression, in others it is not clear what the equipment is.
We have little definite information about companies that are currently exporting to the US but, in one case, that of PW Defence, it appears highly likely that they hold a current export licence for the supply of tear gas.
UK companies that produce equipment that can be used to suppress protests, including PW Defence, are listed in the next FAQ. Here, we will briefly set out what information is available.
Finding information about company exports
Neither government nor companies like to provide information about activities that might increase or focus criticism.
In response to parliamentary questions in June 2020, the UK government has stated that one company is currently authorised to export “riot control agents” and six companies are authorised to export “riot control equipment” under Open Individual Export Licences. There is also one company that is authorised to export “riot control equipment” under a Standard Individual Export Licence. The company names were requested but not provided.
However, using the Freedom of Information Act we have obtained data about companies that applied for export licences for equipment on the Military List to all countries from 2008 to 2015.
There are caveats with the data: we don’t know if an export licence was approved; we don’t know whether any approved licence was in fact used by a company; very few licences in that data will still be extant; and the data isn’t always specific regarding equipment.
On the other side, in some circumstances – such as “tear gas/riot control agents” and “anti-riot/ballistic shields” – the type of equipment is unambiguous as it has a rating of its own. Also, even where caveats apply, the data provides a sense of which companies regard the US as a market. This, with knowledge of a company’s products, can indicate whether crowd control equipment exports to the US are feasible.