After more than 15 years of advocating for the right to use pepper spray, the University of Windsor Campus Community Police are finally getting their wish.
Windsor police Chief Al Frederick has approved the use of oleoresin capsicum spray being issued to the special constables, who first began asking for the right to use it during contract negotiations as early as 1999.
The proposal now requires approval from the provincial ministry of community safety and correctional services, which university spokesman John Coleman says is expected in January.
Several other institutions — including Western, Brock, Guelph and Fanshawe — already have approval to use pepper spray.
“Pepper spray is recognized as a tool that can be used when some type of force is needed,” Coleman said. “Generally when used there’s less likelihood of officers and suspects being injured.”
The training and issuing of the spray is to begin in the near future, Frederick said in a letter to the police services board.
The Windsor police training branch will supply the training, as they do for other issues such as use of force and defensive tactics.
In 2008, an independent firm was commissioned to study the pepper spray issue, reviewing the mandate with Windsor police, professional standards, risk assessment and stakeholders input.
The police services board approved the use of the spray for the special constables in October 2014.
The campus community police currently carry batons, but not firearms. When police are dealing with a fight or altercation with a suspect, Coleman said they may have to resort to physical force to respond.
“Every year there are a number of situations that could be considered dangerous situations, whether an assault or drugs,” Coleman said.
He said when campus police resort to physical force, there is a greater risk of them and the suspect sustaining injuries. He said having access to pepper spray could avoid that.
This will increase safety on campus,” he said. “A difficult or dangerous situation can be resolved quickly.”
Coleman said after approval and training, 23 campus police would carry the pepper spray at all times while on duty.
Pepper spray is also used by railway police, officers with the Niagara Parks Commission and the Toronto Housing Authority.
Canada Post letter carriers also carry pepper spray to ward off dog attacks.
In 2007, Const. Wayne Venables, the Unifor Local 195 staff representative, spoke of the need for pepper spray on the eve of contract negotiations.
“We feel that this is long overdue,” said Venables. “We have had injuries, no doubt.”
In 2009, Venables was still unsuccessfully advocating for the green light for pepper spray.
“How much longer are we supposed to wait?,” Venables said at the time. “Every day that goes by puts us at risk. It’s a safety concern for us.”