Pepper Spray Me, Shoot You is the nineteenth installment in my Bad Luck Cadet Series that follows my adventures at the police academy after my mid-life crisis. It’s all about fun, laughter and PAIN! If you are new to the series, you can follow it from the beginning on this blog starting with Bad Luck Cadet #1 – Accidents Happen or buy it as a Kindle e-book from Amazon.
I made it through another week. It was now the week of Thanksgiving. We would have a four day break from the academy. But before that break came Wednesday, pepper spray day. A day I had been dreading like no other. I had hated our CS (tear gas) training and everyone who had previously encountered pepper spray said the pepper spray, also known as OC spray, was much worse.
Almost daily, we were performing scenarios enacted by our squad advisors and overseen by Sgt. Dickens. I was becoming known as a shooter. In one scenario, I was told a fellow officer had entered a home and was not answering his radio. I knocked on the door and heard yelling from inside. I drew my gun and pushed open the door. The officer (a life-like dummy) was lying on the floor, and a man was standing over him and hitting the officer in the head with a bat. I shot and killed the suspect. The scenario was immediately ended and Sgt. Dickens began yelling “Articulate your reasons,” wanting to know why I shot.
I calmly said, “He had a bat. I did not know if the downed officer was dead but he was obviously unconscious. I shot the suspect because I was the only chance the officer had to survive; the suspect had already taken down one officer, and was armed and dangerous.”
Although said grudgingly, Sgt. Dickens replied, “Good job.”
We were always yelled at when we had to defend our decisions. It was part of thinking under stressful conditions. The words “articulate your reasons” were used throughout my academy experience. I learned to articulate very well.
For some reason, I was always justified in my “Kills.” I would articulate my reasons and pass each time. Other cadets would not shoot so fast. Some would even fail the scenario because of this.
During one of these scenarios, a fellow cadet was punched in the eye by our defensive tactics instructor and then when he didn’t lift his hands to defend his face he was punched in the other eye. I don’t mean soft taps here. The cadet had two black eyes for days after the incident. I was not punched because I shot the bad guy (DT instructor) and then defended my decision correctly.
These incidents only seemed to piss my Sergeant off more. I wasn’t sure why, but my fellow cadets laughed because I passed all the scenarios by shooting.
Rocco and I continued to work on POPAT together. I had no doubt he would pass the next testing and his confidence was at its highest point. He had lost over fifty pounds and was kicking my butt in all the physical activities we did.
During these last weeks at the academy things began to get lighter when it came to inspection and penalties for unknown infractions. I no longer had that feeling of dread in my stomach when Sgt. Dickens walked up to our parade deck for morning inspection. We would manage to get through the morning with only twenty to thirty pushups.
I continued to miss Donna and I thought of her often. Rocco and P-Rod became my support. I feel they gave more to me than I could ever return. The three of us were acing our Monday morning tests and Rocco and P-Rod excelling physically at everything put before us. I too was doing better though my body continued to fight me and the four day break coming up would again be one of icepacks and Ibuprofen.
Pepper spray Wednesday rolled around. We were marched out to an area beside the track by the “red shirts.” We had learned during our earlier academy experience with CS gas that these men (officers) in red shirts signified pain. Yes it was necessary, but they seemed to get great enjoyment from what they would be bringing our way.
Pepper spray could not be put off and many cadets had their remedies with them. Small portable battery operated fans, bottles of baby shampoo, and so on. They had been told by previous pepper spray survivors that these items would help with the burning.
We were made to stand and recite our name, police department name and address. During this recitation we were sprayed directly in the eyes with pepper spray. We were then attacked and hit with a square pad held by an instructor. We had to successfully fight the attacker off and then the instructor would back off and grab a weapon. It could be a knife, gun or baton. We would then need to radio our location to dispatch, tell them we were under attack, and identify the object in the instructor’s hand, while he threatened us. Depending on his weapon we would take the appropriate action.
Within ten to fifteen seconds after being sprayed our eyes were swollen shut, and burning like nothing we’d ever felt. We had to use one hand to pull our eyelids apart just to see, and yell the commands into our radios all the while yelling at our attacker to obey our commands.
My turn came and I was sprayed and then attacked with the pad. I used my radio correctly and then I lucked out and my attacker had a gun which I identified. I shot him. My turn was over. I had passed though the pain was not over. I was led by fellow cadets blindly to a water hose and helped to point it into my eyes to thoroughly flush them. I was then left alone, so the cadets could rescue the next victim. My hands and fingers were burning where I’d touched my eyelids. The effects would last for hours.
We were told to be careful when taking a shower that evening and to wash our heads and faces with our bodies standing away from the stream. This kept the pepper spray from running down our bodies and burning everything it came in contact with. Advisers described which body parts would be the most painful if the pepper spray connected. I couldn’t even imagine the spray in that particular area. We were also told to be careful washing our clothing because the pepper spray would reactivate in the wash. I think the worst part was the fact my skin burned for hours. Nothing helped the burning but time. I tried the baby shampoo and even a fan. Time was the cure.
All this torture was life saving preparation. If a suspect managed to get our pepper spray away from us or had his or her own to spray, we needed to know how it would affect us. It was also possible when using pepper spray on a suspect, to have the wind blow it back on us. I now knew the pepper spray was practically incapacitating. If I had to shoot a suspect due to any of these previous scenarios, I could articulate my reasoning due to my experience. This would be the most painful single experience I would have at the academy. I never wanted to be pepper sprayed again.
Thanksgiving break at last. The police department in Small Town, Arizona was having its annual Thanksgiving banquet on Saturday and my husband and I were invited. I was nervous. It would be my first time meeting most of my department, and I worried about what they would think of me.
With a potluck dish in hand, my husband and I arrived and were introduced around to everyone. There was no way to remember all the Officer’s names much less their spouse’s names. The Chief and Sergeant’s wives were great. They were excited to finally be getting a female at the department. The officers stay back. Besides saying a brief hello during introductions they kept to themselves. I was not deterred. I had won over my fellow cadets at the academy and I had no doubt I could get along with the officers I would be working with. The situation would also improve once I was actually wearing a badge.
There would be plenty of challenges coming my way in a department that had never before employed a female cop. But I was looking forward to them. Now all I had to do was finish my last three weeks at the academy.