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New Mexico State University Police Department offers pepper spray course

The New Mexico State University Police Department offers several different training courses to the NMSU and Las Cruces community. Recently, the focus was on the use of pepper spray for personal protection.

Two NMSU Police officers struggle over a can of pepper spray to demonstrate to class participants how to keep control of the can during an attack.
NMSU Police Officer Orlando Valles and Lt. Jeffrey Harvey demonstrate pepper spray can retention techniques during a pepper spray training class held on campus last week. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)

NMSU Police Lt. Jeffrey Harvey and Officer Orlando Valles taught the two hour class, which consisted of a classroom session and outdoor, practical exercise with inert spray.

The instructors can speak about pepper spray from both a professional and personal perspective. Both men have been sprayed with pepper spray as part of their law enforcement training and have received accidental doses on the job.

"It's the worst pain I've ever felt in my life," Valles said.

When someone is sprayed with pepper spray, also known as Oleoresin Capsicum or OC, they will experience severe pain, inflammation, temporary blindness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Valles said. All of these effects are temporary and can be shortened by breathing fresh air, flushing the eyes with running water and cleaning exposed skin.

"It's mean and wicked stuff, but it's an excellent product," Harvey said. From a law enforcement perspective, "it's a good thing we used this spray for those we wind up spraying," he said. "It's temporary and allows us to put the suspect under arrest and into handcuffs and no one really gets hurt."

Harvey added that only suspects who are actively and violently resisting arrest would be sprayed and that he has not had to use pepper spray during his more than 3 years at NMSU.

Following the briefing part of the course, participants had the opportunity to practice using an inert spray and learn certain stances and techniques to evade potential assailants.

"I think it's important to have some type of protection with you, especially as a woman when you're out on or off campus," said course participant Louise Ytuarte, from NMSU Sponsored Projects Accounting. "These guys did a great job teaching the course. They gave a lot of information and anecdotes to help us learn."

The course is free and open to the public. The only cost is the purchase of the Oleoresin Capsicum and inert sprays, available separately at the Barnes and Noble at NMSU Bookstore for about $25.

To sign up for future pepper spray classes or learn about other NMSU PD classes, contact NMSU Police Department Special Events Coordinator Amanda Bowen at 575-646-3311 or amfranci@nmsu.edu.