OC Spray Training - To Be or Not to Be Sprayed
July 20, 2010 at 06:00
Few, if any, officers are overjoyed when coming into contact with OC Spray (oleoresin capsicum). The taste and intense burning sensation in the eyes or face is unpleasant to say the least. Regardless, in essentially every training course on OC Spray, students are regularly exposed to OC or worse.
For example, the United States military has used a time honored and progressive educational approach to introduce recruits to ‘gas warfare’. It begins with classroom instruction, equipping them with protective mask and, if necessary clothing, and then having them practice getting in and out of that equipment prior to entering a ‘gas house’ where they are exposed to various chemical agents.
Why do instructors do this to their students? Well, in the case of the military, recruits that pass in and out of the ‘gas house’ gain confidence in their ability to survive should they ever be exposed to ‘gas warfare’ on the battlefield. Similarly, officers who work in the criminal justice profession will likely be exposed to OC spray at some point. Unfortunately, OC doesn’t take sides and because it takes the form of a spray, it tends to drift everyone and affects everyone, be it Good Guy or Bad Guy.
In a worst case scenario, such as this news event in Winnipeg, Canada shows, law enforcement officers may not be the only individuals to have an incident with OC Spray. The most common area affected by OC is a person’s vision. However, breathing can be affected too whenever OC enters a person’s lungs. If you aren’t prepared for the effects of OC, the delay in combat can give a combatant enough time to flee or worse.
In early OC training for officers, officers were sprayed in a manner that would affect mostly their vision. Once ‘blinded’, they were directed to water by a fellow officer so they could begin to decontaminate by applying copious amounts of water in hopes of eliminating, as quickly as possible, that intense burning/stinging sensation in their eyes, as well as on their face. This was the state of OC training in those early days, which was good for exposure, but not for officer survival. Officers often believe that once blinded they were helpless and had to be guided to safety. Again, this belief doesn’t build the kind of confidence officers have to have in order to survive on the job.
Today, many trainers have created specific learning objectives for OC training whereby officers learn how to ‘fight through’ OC induced ‘blindness’ by rapid blinking. Officers then learn how to transition to performing various empty-hand skills like punches or knee strikes and/or using less-lethal technologies like a baton to protect themselves, as well as their firearm, from an attacker. This ‘dry-run’ practice leads to the actual spraying and demonstration of skills for self-defense and, when possible, subject is taken into custody.
It is not a case of if officers will be exposed to OC spray either directly or indirectly but rather when it will happen to them on the job. Consequently, officers have to learn how to survive and win in an actual OC environment that they or someone else has exposed them too.