A COAST police officer is under investigation after more than a dozen people were hit with capsicum spray at Palmwoods Hotel on the weekend.
The officer is believed to have used the spray to break up a fight between several men in the early hours of Saturday morning but bystanders, staff and security guards were also sprayed in the face and eyes.
It was believed the officer gave a verbal warning for the men to stop fighting before using the spray about 1am.
A review of the officer's actions and whether capsicum spray was an acceptable use of force will be undertaken by senior police management.
A hotel patron who witnessed the incident said six of his friends were affected by the spray, including four women.
He said the officer used the spray "like a hydrant" after being pulled into the fight.
"He was out of his league and panicked," he said.
"It was such a confined space and so everybody was affected when he just let it loose and sprayed everywhere.
"Girls especially were yelling and screaming and people were literally putting their heads in the sink trying to scrub it out."
A Police Media spokesman said the officer used the spray in an attempt to safely resolve the situation.
He said capsicum spray was a "less than lethal option" for police in performing their duties.
"When a use of force option is chosen by a police officer, careful consideration must be given to all of the circumstances existing at that time.
"The safety of police officers, the subject person(s) and any other person(s) present are all factors that must be weighed up by the police officer prior to choosing and applying any use of force."
The patron said the spray was used unnecessarily as the hotel's security guards had the situation "wrapped up".
"He just ran in and tried to help and it went pear-shaped in a big way," he said.
"He just let the spray go everywhere and then ran out onto the road to get away."
A 19-year-old Maroochydore was subsequently charged with obstructing police and failing to leave licensed premises.
He will appear before the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on April 13.
Management of the Palmwoods Hotel refused to comment.
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