Taking heat

Irma Saiz, a detention officer in training, held her right hand up, next to her face. She dropped her hand to signify she was ready, and then a stream of pepper spray, which looked like buffalo wing sauce, hit her in the face.

"I was ready, and it hurt a lot more than I thought it would," Saiz said. "I just wanted to get the course over with."

CMI staff photo: Kevin Baird

CMI photo: Kevin Baird

After being pepper sprayed, Nathan Macias, left, tackles Sgt. Daniel Padilla. The exercise was part of a pepper spray certification test for detention center applicants Friday in Clovis.

Seven detention-officer trainees who were taking the 80-hour basic detention course to work the Curry County Detention Center were finishing up their pepper spray certification Friday afternoon. A handful of detention officers who had not yet been pepper spray certified were also participating.

"To be certified to carry it," said Tori Sandoval, interim administrator at the jail, "you must be sprayed with it."

The trainees had just spent the morning working on the book portion of the certification. In the afternoon they went through the pepper spray certification course one at a time. The course consisted of three obstacles. The first was to be sprayed in the face.

CMI staff photo: Kevin Baird

Detention officer trainee Harvey Park grimaces after getting his face painted with pepper spray.

Nathan Macias said he felt immediate pain when the irritant made contact with his face.

"It was very disorienting," Macias said. After being sprayed in the face the trainees were required to take down an officer, padded in a Redman suit, cuff him, and on a hand-held radio call in a 24/10: Officer in need of assistance.

Next the trainees were required to deliver five hard knee-kicks to a officer with knee protection, then deliver five hard elbow-strikes to a officer with arm and shoulder protection.

The trainees finished the course by identifying an object such as a pencil or key, and then heading to the wash station.

"I'm very pleased with every one of them," Sandoval said, "As well as with the off-duty officers who helped."

Sandoval explained the escalation of force that must be applied when using pepper spray. First an officer must use verbal communication to get an inmate to comply. If that doesn't work, the officer will warn the inmate of the impending pepper spray. The inmate must be warned three times before the pepper spray can be deployed.

The trainee's certifications will be valid for one year, but they only have to do written work for certification renewal.

The pepper spray used by the detention officers is 10 percent oleoresin capsicum, the active ingredient. Any pepper spray available to the public is between 2 and 5 percent OC, according to Sandoval.

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