Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle, May 2020

FAQ – UK ‘crowd control’ manufacturers

Following the murder of George Floyd, protests in the US against racism and police violence have been met with further state violence. The response in the UK has included anger at the potential role of the UK in supplying equipment that could be used to suppress protests. Here we try to answer some of the questions that have come up.

Last updated 11 February 2022

The companies below are known to produce crowd control equipment. The first group of companies are also known to have applied for export licences to the US, although in some cases it is ambiguous as to whether the application was for ‘crowd control’ equipment. The second group of companies are not known to have applied for export licences to the US.

Notes:

  • information about company export licence applications is drawn from Freedom of Information responses
  • the equipment covered by specific Military List ratings is taken from the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.

Companies known to have made export licence applications to the US

PW Defence, formerly Chemring Defence UK

PW Defence says it is “one of the leading pyrotechnic Defence manufacturers in the world”. It sells a range of CS gas munitions including CS cartridges, CS hand grenades and armoured vehicle launched CS grenades. This range was advertised on the companies website until recently – it was taken down at some point between the 4th and 15th of June 2020. Helpfully, the page is archived here.

From the evidence we have, it appears very likely that PW Defence holds an extant licence to supply tear gas to the US. We know that in July 2015 a licence was approved for the export of arms including “CS hand grenades”, “tear gas/irritant ammunition” and “tear gas/riot control agents” to the US. Although company information isn’t provided with that data, we know from company data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that Chemring Defence UK had applied for this licence (as the destinations and ratings are the same).

This licence will have been valid for three years (rather than five years as it included EU countries) and, at about the point that this licence would have expired, a new licence covering similar equipment was applied for. The two licences are shown here. It appears very likely that this was a follow-on licence.

As a result it is highly likely that PW Defence is the company currently authorised to export “riot control agents”. It has certainly held a licence in the past.

Other Chemring Defence UK licence applications to the US

include:

  • 2009, ML2b which covers “Smoke, gas and ‘pyrotechnic’ projectors or generators specially designed or modified for military use”
  • 2009, ML3a which covers ammunition
  • 2008/2009/2010/2015, ML4a which covers “Bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition-charges, demolition-devices, demolition-kits, devices that contain ‘pyrotechnics’, cartridges and simulators…, specially designed for military use”

Primetake

Primetake produces CS irritant rounds and also has a “public order” range which includes irritant sprays, rubber batons and rubber ball rounds.

The company applied for ML3a (ammunition) export licences to the US in 2008 and 2010.

Civil Defence Supply

Civil Defence Supply’s website advertises “UK Issue CS Spray” & “US Issue OC Pepper Spray” and also riot shields and riot helmets.

The company applied for “anti-riot and ballistic shields” (PL5001b) export licences to the US in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Centanex

Centanex produces CS irritant ammunition, ball grenades and distraction and smoke grenades.

The company applied for ML4a export licences to the US in 2013 and 2014. ML4a covers “Bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition-charges, demolition-devices, demolition-kits, devices that contain “pyrotechnics”, cartridges and simulators…, specially designed for military use”

BCB International

BCB International markets (page 124) a “less-lethal launcher” and “less-lethal ammunition” for shotguns.

BCB has applied for many licences to the US, these include:

  • 2008/2009/2010/2013/2014, ML2a which covers “Guns, howitzers, cannon, mortars, anti-tank weapons, projectile launchers, military flame throwers, rifles, recoilless rifles, smooth-bore weapons, and signature reduction devices therefor”
  • 2010/2015, ML13c – helmets, and ML13d – body armour
  • 2010, PL5001b – anti-riot and ballistic shields
  • 2014/2015, ML10c1 which covers “‘UAVs’, Remotely Piloted Air Vehicles (RPVs), autonomous programmable vehicles and unmanned ‘lighter-than-air vehicles'”

Safariland

Safariland is a US company whose primary focus is law enforcement equipment. Its products include body armour, holsters, and an extensive range of CS gas rounds and grenades under the Defense Technology brand.

However, on 9 June 2020, following publicity of the use of its tear gas, including during the protests against racist police brutality just prior to the announcement, the company announced it was divesting its Defense Technology brand. The divestment is expected to be completed during 2020.

In 2017, Safariland purchased UK companies Aegis Engineering and LBA International. Both of these companies applied for “anti-riot and ballistic shields” (PL5001b), helmet (ML13c) and body armour (ML13d) export licences to the US in 2015.

DMS Protective

DMS Protective’s portfolio includes batons “specifically designed for… anti-riot and other public order situations” and shields including the Scorpion solo shield. Manufacturing is apparently carried out by sister-company DMS Plastics, which is located in the same building.

DMS Protective applied for an “anti-riot/ballistic shields” (PL5001b) export licence to the US in 2015.

A recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports, the Guardian, Sky News and Bellingcat has revealed the violent use of DMS’s shields by multiple US law enforcement agencies.

 

Companies not known to have made export licence applications to the US

Deenside

Deenside produces PAVA (a synthetic version of pepper spray), batons and “public order” shields and helmets, and water cannon.

Related content

US aircraft carrier

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

United States

Racist policing and the activities of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement organization are responsible for severe human rights abuses. Externally, the US is engaged in multiple wars around the world, often alongside the UK.

Police with shields and helmets in front of the House of Commons

Policing

State violence is the same whether it’s carried out by the military or police. The line between the two has always been blurred and, via equipment, tactics and terminology, this is increasing.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

Keep in touch