|March 24, 2000||Volume 7, Number 13|
Officers good training makes pepper spray proper option
By S/Cst. Christopher Rhodes
As the weeks and months have passed since the declaration of unsafe working conditions by University of Saskatchewan Special Constables, many people in the community have asked similar questions when trying to rationalize the positions taken by the officers: Why do Special Constables need pepper spray? Can a situation like APEC in Vancouver or WTO in Seattle happen at the U of S?
When Security Services was looking for an officer safety system to teach patrol officers for use in the field, many considerations had to be made:
After careful consideration and review of many different law enforcement defense programs, the choice for Security Services was the Protective Safety System (PSS).
The PSS system was developed by John Desmedt a retired U.S. Secret Service agent with expertise in several areas of law enforcement. One of Desmedts most celebrated duties was personal protection for U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter.
Desmedt designed PSS to work in synchronicity with a Use of Force model that every law enforcement agency could operate from. The goal of combining officer safety, the evaluation of a given situation, and proper execution of the appropriate response was of great importance.
It has quickly become one of the most popular systems used by law enforcement in Canada. The Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat Police Services, as well as Security officers at the University of Manitoba use the Protective Safety System.
PSS and the Use of Force Model work on four principles that are of benefit to Special Constables. By using perception, being aware of the environment of the situation, practicing timeliness, and employing proper tactics in the field, officers can be successful in defending themselves and others on campus.
The role of environment and rapid response to calls for service is one of the cornerstones of the PSS system, and U of S Security can offer these aspects better than any other law enforcement agency.
One of the first duties for officers is to become familiar with every building, leaving little confusion when an emergency arises. Since most people in the Department are also former students, a variable such as environment becomes less worrisome. Who better to know where the Fishbowl is than a former U of S student turned Special Constable?
The Use of Force Model teaches the appropriate level of officer response as it is dictated by the actions of the subject. As the perpetrators actions become more dangerous, the level of force allowed to the officer rises accordingly.
One of the first officer reactions in this Use of Force model is officer presence. "Officer presence is on every Use of Force Model that Ive ever seen," says S/Cst. Dave Welsh, one of three certified PSS instructors with Security Services.
"Sometimes a law enforcement officer can control a situation just simply by arriving and making themselves be seen. A uniform, along with a badge of some sort, clearly identifies you as some type of authority figure or law enforcement personnel."
Even though the model allows for all types of responses, officers at the U of S rely on pepper spray and batons as proper equipment for the majority of their specific duties. While officers at present can carry batons, S/Cst. Welsh opts for having pepper spray as well.
"The reason is that while we are using the impact weapon, we aim for the major muscle groups on the arm and legs, and there could be lasting damage in terms of tissue damage," Welsh said.
"Its more serious in terms of tissue damage and lasting contusions, fractured bones, whatever. With pepper spray, the issue is that we may be able to control the situation at a distance. The more distance, the more options available to us, the more time to assess, the safer it is for us, and the safer it is for the subject."
With other tools and knowledge to draw on besides PSS for example, Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training it is quite possible that there may never be an incident of a Special Constable using their baton or spray.
By the same token, there has not been a police-involved shooting in Saskatoon in recent memory, and many police officers in Canada may go through a career without drawing their firearms. If the public asked them to give up their guns, would they continue to work in the same way they do now?
A letter to the editor ( Prof. Tracy Marchant, On Campus News, March 10, 2000) mentioned the worry of putting the U of S on a "very slippery slope" by arming officers with pepper spray.
Under our current Memorandum of Understanding with the Saskatoon Police Service and Saskatchewan Justice, our duties are quite clear when it comes to organized rallies and uncooperative protesters. It wont be the U of S Special Constables who are breaking up groups on campus, it will be the Saskatoon Police. Maybe the "slope" is slipperier than some people might realize.
Christopher Rhodes is a Special Constable with the University of Saskatchewan Security Services Department.
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