COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Before ever putting on the badge, Colorado Springs police recruits have to take one for the team–or rather, two.
All recruits are exposed to both OC or pepper spray, and being tased.
“It’s really not that bad, and it’s only five seconds,” said recruit Robert McGee. “Now granted during those five seconds it kind of feels like every single one of your 206 bones are exploding at the same time, but when it’s over, it’s all done.”
Instructors said there are two main reasons to put the recruits through this.
“One is empathy,” said Officer Bryce Macomber, the Tasing Master Instructor. “If they’ve been exposed to it, they know what it’s like, they know not to overuse it.”
“It’s absolutely huge to know what your future suspects are going to be feeling,” said McGee.
The second main reason is so officers know what to expect should the tools ever be turned on them.
“If you’ve never been sprayed before it can be very stressful, because it interferes with your breathing a little bit, you start gasping for air, things of that nature,” said Macomber.
But how do officers decide which tool to use?
“They’re taught that when they are confronted with a combative person that they are to use the least amount of force necessary to gain control of the situation, and that can be a variety of things depending on how the suspect is acting towards the officer,” said Officer Cassidy Harvell, a staff instructor at the academy who primarily teaches arrest control.
“We want to give them a lot of tools for their toolbox, be it hands on, baton, OC, Taser, or unfortunately lethal if need be,” said Macomber. “But it’s a situational decision based on what is objectively reasonable to that officer at that time.”
Ideally, an officer won’t have to use any of those.
“The primary thing that we teach the recruits and all the officers when they come through in-service is deescalation. We’re much better off deescalating the situation, or at least attempting to deescalate it, before it rises to that level,” said Macomber. “Sometimes the situation does not provide an opportunity to deescalate though.”
In those situations, officers are taught to use lethal force.
“If it’s me by myself and the call indicates there’s a gun, or I see a gun, I’m matching that force. I can match the force, I can go one step higher than that. So if there’s a gun in play, I’m going to have a gun out,” said Macomber.
“Now if we have multiple officers on scene to where somebody could transition to a less lethal option and then take care of that situation that way, then that’s what we’ll do, but what we train the officers is if you have an unknown threat or a lethal threat, you probably want to be at a lethal standing for yourself, that you can easily deescalate back down from, as opposed to having a Taser in my hand, with a gun, because the gun is going to win every time.”
The 70th Recruit Class graduates Thursday.