Police Academy Discovers Pepper Spray in Face Not So Funny

Heather Bryant

Sun Star Reporter

Police officers and trainees from around the state of Alaska gathered at the UAF campus on Sept. 8 and 9 for the Community and Technical College Law Enforcement Academy training exercises.  The two-day training academy is held once in the spring and once in the fall each year. The two days consist of training in the use of a stun gun and OC (pepper) spray. Each participant is required to experience being stunned and being sprayed with pepper spray.

“This [pepper spray] is a tool that a new police officer will be using,” said University Police Department Chief Sean McGee. “We need to be sure they know how.”

The first day of instruction included using the collapsible baton, being stunned and a test on tool use. The participants learn about the proper use of each tool an officer typically carries and then go through an exercise where they are tested on which tool they choose to use in a scenario.

The final day is the pepper spray exercise. “This is the last thing we do. After this, all they want to do is rub water on their face and feel the wind on their face,” said McGee.

This training exercise involves being sprayed directly in the face by the OC spray and still performing an arrest on a suspect. The trainee must then put together a small puzzle. The exercise is designed to teach officers to control their panic response and still be able to perform their duties while waiting for backup.

“It minimizes the amount of panic because they will know what it will feel like if they get sprayed,” said McGee. Such an exposure is possible in the field if wind blows the cloud of spray into the officer’s face or if a suspect is carrying pepper spray.

The trainees took turns being sprayed and being the bad guy. Near the end of the exercise, the group was starting to run short on bad guys as the trainees crouched with red faces over ice coolers and buckets filled with water.

Trainees seeking to be certified in the CTC Law Enforcement Academy came from the Fairbanks Police Department, Anchorage Police Department, Unalaska, State of Alaska Department of Revenue, and the North Slope Borough Police Department. Some attendees were not yet affiliated with any police forces but were seeking certification for future jobs in law enforcement.

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