The same cayenne pepper favored by sadistic cooks for their firehouse chili will soon be providing the oomph in the concoction that the Baltimore Police Department will use to replace the Chemical Mace now carried by its 2,900 officers.
Its official name is "organic, non-enduring irritant," and the Police Department spokesman, Dennis S. Hill, says it "affects the dickens out of your nasal membranes."
Freely translated, this means if you get a faceful you start sneezing -- sneezing hard and for as long as a half hour -- and if you're sneezing like that you can neither see very well nor devote much energy to resisting the police officer who just squirted you with it.
By contrast, the old Chemical Mace used by the department for the past two decades caused tearing of the eyes, respiratory distress and burning of the skin, but didn't always work so well, according to veteran officers.
For one thing, the officers say it too often failed to stop drug-crazed or highly intoxicated people.
For another, both police officers and citizens complained about the irritation the Chemical Mace caused and wondered whether the effects could be lasting.
And, officers said it often wasn't too reliable against dogs and other animals.
All this led Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods to undertake a study to switch to an organic, non-lethal spray that would have the power to stop a violent suspect.
At $8.60 for a 3.67-ounce canister, MK-IV Pepper Mace manufactured by Def-Tec Corp. of Rock Creek, Ohio, will add just the right touch, the police believe.
"It will put you down, I guarantee it," said Lt. Col. Leon Tomlin, who as head of the property division oversaw the testing and purchase of the canisters.
The Pepper Mace can be washed off immediately with soap and water.