Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge Police add high-powered pepper spray guns to gear

Breckenridge Police add high-powered pepper spray guns to gear
March 19
13:49 2019

For Breckenridge Police Department Lt. Bacel Cantrell, one of the most effective ways to train police officers on a new piece of equipment is to give them a first-hand demonstration of how it works. That’s just what he did Friday afternoon when he volunteered to be shot with a high-powered pepper gun.

The BPD had training on Friday, March 15, at the Stephens County Law Enforcement Center to learn how to use their new JPX pepper guns to subdue certain subjects without lethal force. Cantrell wanted to show the officers exactly how effective the pepper guns can be.

“We’ve watched videos, we’ve done all that stuff,” he said. “I want my guys to be assured that if they use this, it’s going to work. So, one of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate it on a person.”

The live demonstration

Breckenridge Police Department Lt. Bacel Cantrell reacts to being shot with a pepper spray gun during a training session for the new non-lethal weapons last week. Cantrell said he was initially stunned by the impact of the blast and a few seconds later he began to feel the burning effects of the spray. (Photos by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Following a two-hour classroom training and instruction session on the proper way to safely and effectively use the pepper guns, Cantrell took the officers outside, set up cardboard targets and had them practice shooting at the targets.

He then went inside and changed clothes before he returned to the training area and stood in front of the targets. Stephens County Deputy Wayne McMullen, who attended the training session, fired one of the pepper guns at Cantrell from eight feet away.

One of the blasts from the gun struck Cantrell in the neck, and he immediately felt the impact. Within seconds, Cantrell was affected by the pepper spray as it splattered onto his face and clothes.

“You know, I was eight foot out and it hit me in the neck and that impact was enough,” he said as he stood slumped over while paramedics washed him down with bottles of water and Dawn dish soap to cool the effects of the pepper spray he had just been hit with.

Emergency personnel with Sacred Cross EMS pour water and Dawn soap on BPD Lt. Bacel Cantrell, left, after he volunteered to be shot with a pepper spray gun during training last week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

“It hurts really bad,” he said, continuing to describe the effects from the pepper spray he was feeling at that moment. “The burning is bad. It’s intense, and it wasn’t even a direct impact to my face. It was more of a splatter on my face, and it is on fire. I can taste it in my mouth; I can feel it in my nose. But … just the impact of that hitting my neck was an attention-getter. Then, it was maybe about four or five seconds after that when I started feeling it in my eyes, and then that’s all I can taste in my mouth is peppers.”

The effect from pepper spray from the gun lasts much longer than more traditional pepper spray or being shot by a Taser. On Monday, Cantrell said it was about an hour and 45 minutes before he was able to get in his car and drive home after the demonstration on Friday.

“It burned real bad, and my skin and all that burned pretty good for about 30 to 40 minutes. And then it felt just like the spray from a normal can of (pepper) spray after that,” he said. “It was about like having sunburn on your face.”

He said even the next morning he still felt like he had a sunburn, but the effects were completely gone by noon the next day.

Switching to the pepper spray guns

Following Friday’s training session Cantrell said all Breckenridge Police Department patrol officers are now certified and are carrying the pepper spray guns instead of Tasers as their non-lethal weapon, in addition to their regular firearms. Each officer at BPD will be required to go through the pepper spray training every year, and Cantrell is required go through the instructor course every other year.

The BPD officers are now carrying JPX pepper spray guns as their non-lethal weapon. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The department decided to switch to pepper spray because their Tasers were expiring and they had to decide what to spend the money on to replace them. Some research showed the pepper guns to be more effective, so that’s what they chose.

They are less lethal than Tasers, Cantrell said, and are designed not to cause bodily injury.  However, he said, it’s difficult to compare the pepper spray guns with Tasers because they are on two different parts of the force continuum. He said the Tasers are classified as a less-than-lethal weapon, below a gun, and the pepper spray guns are one step below the Tasers.

“So actually we’re using one less step of force by switching to these from the Tasers,” Cantrell said. “The chances of it killing you or causing serious bodily injury are nearly none, if it’s used correctly, so you can use the force without using deadly force and still achieve the same goal.”

Cantrell said some studies have shown the pepper spray guns to be more effective than Tasers when stopping a suspect, and the liability and costs of the spray guns are a little bit less.

“Statistically, they’re going to be a little bit more effective,” he said. “They say this concentrated spray will work on someone whether they’re messed up on bath salts or PCP, under the influence of methamphetamines or alcohol.”

The pepper spray can also be used against aggressive animals even as large as a black bear or moose.

“If we had dog coming up on us, now we have something with some distance we can use and we’re less likely to have to shoot the dog (with a gun) that’s attacking us or coming after us,” Cantrell said.

He said more police departments, jails, hospitals, big corporations with security groups and even some schools have started using the pepper guns.

Cantrell said that when a BPD officer fires a pepper guns at a suspect, it will be considered a use of force, so there will be a use-of-force report filed, similar to that used when they use a Taser on a suspect.

The high-powered guns

The spray guns have a more powerful and concentrated spray blast than the traditional pepper spray canisters carried by police officers.

According to the literature provided by the manufacturer, the spray guns represent a significant departure from the conventional pressurized pepper spray canister designs. It’s modeled after a pistol, and it fires farther with more precision than conventional pepper spray.

BPD officers carry the JPX 2 model, which uses a two-shot removable magazine and a red dot laser sight. They have a reach of 23 maximum feet and can deploy the pepper spray and be effective with it at that distance.

“With the regular canister, you get blow back,” Cantrell said. “If I were to spray you in a building, everybody gets sprayed in the building. Then I put you in my patrol car, and I’m coughing and sneezing, the suspect’s coughing and sneezing, gagging, all that stuff is going on.”

To demonstrate that during Friday’s training Cantrell had the officers walk up to the targets so they could see they were not affected by spray fired from the guns.

“You saw in the demonstration, we walked right up to it and put our face to it, and there was no response to it,” Cantrell said.

One advantage of using the spray guns instead of a Taser is that the spray is effective even if the suspect is wearing a thick jacket, which sometimes prevents the Taser prongs from reaching the suspect’s skin.

“Especially during winter, colder times, if you’re wearing a heavy jacket, the (Taser) prongs are only so long, they’re only going to penetrate so much,” he said. “We’ve run into people actually doubling up on their clothing so that a Taser is not effective.”

On the other hand, one benefit to the Taser is if the officer gets a really good shot at a suspect with a Taster, the suspect usually immediately goes down and the officer has a little more control a little bit quicker. But, that’s not always the case. Additionally, there have been other reported issues with Taser use.

Cantrell said the pepper spray is going to hurt the suspect for a longer period of time, and the longer until it is washed it off, the worse it will be.

When an officer fires a pepper gun at a subject, their face is the primary target, if the nozzle of the gun is at least five feet from subject’s face. If they are closer than five feet, the officer would aim at the subject’s chest.

Other emergency responders

Alongside BPD police officers attending the training demonstration Friday, there were also crews from Sacred Cross EMS services, firefighters from the Breckenridge Fire Department, and representatives from the Stephens County Juvenile Probation Department. While Stephens County deputies do not carry the spray guns and cannot be certified by Cantrell, Deputy McMullen went through the training so he would know how the guns work. The Stephens County Sheriff’s Office still carries Tasers.

Cantrell said the representatives from the other agencies had been invited so they would be familiar with the effects of the pepper gun in case they encountered a spraying scenario during a call in the field.

“The EMS and fire guys, if we have a big enough scene, they’re going to show up generally. I just want them to be aware of what we’re using,” Cantrell said. “Of course, it’s a little bit stouter than what is in the regular spray. If they come in contact with it, I just want them to be familiar with it.”

Colin Blackburn, a supervisor for Sacred Cross EMS services, said they came to demonstration to learn how to respond to people who had been sprayed with the guns, in case their ambulance crews are called out to a situation where the pepper spray has been used.

“It’s lot worse than the regular pepper spray, and now we know exactly what to do if we find somebody that’s been pepper sprayed,” he said. “We know what to do to help them.”

To see a video of Cantrell getting hit with the pepper spray, click here to go to the BPD’s Facebook page.

Breckenridge Police Department Lt. Bacel Cantrell, center, explains how to use the JPX pepper gun to officers Diane Davis, left, and Justin Rose, right, during training last Friday. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Police Officers Diane Davis, left, and Justin Rose, center, take practice shots with their new JPX pepper guns during a training session last Friday at Stephens County Law Enforcement Center. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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