A taste of their own medicine Md. police officials test pepper Mace

May 15, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Col. Larry W. Tolliver, the state police superintendent, tells about being sprayed with pepper Mace.

"It causes a real burning in the eyes," Colonel Tolliver said. "Some people lose all control. For me, I tried to keep my thoughts about me. It's a good thing I was able to get to some cold water real quick."

Colonel Tolliver and three members of his command staff, Col. James Harey, Maj. Rodney Martin and Capt. Tim Hutchins, recently volunteered to test pepper Mace -- capable in the right dosages of bringing down a polar bear -- on themselves.

The state police agency -- just as the Baltimore City Police Department and law enforcement agencies elsewhere have done -- is phasing out chemical Mace and giving troopers canisters that spray a mist containing cayenne pepper.

The changeover is expected to be complete in two months.

Pepper Mace is safer than chemical Mace but just as effective in subduing an enraged suspect.

Chemical Mace, which has the combined effect of a tear gas and a nerve gas, is considered a weapon because it can cause injury.

Chemical Mace has long-lasting effects and sometimes leaves people with burns.

Questions were also raised about using it against those suffering from respiratory or heart problems.

Chemical Mace is sometimes ineffective on those under the influence of drugs.

Pepper Mace is made from natural ingredients, is nontoxic and allows officers to exert the "least amount of physical force" to subdue someone, said Sgt. Timothy P. Vittetoe of the State Police Training Academy.

Sergeant Vittetoe said pepper Mace is considered a technique and not a weapon. It can be washed from a person's eyes in minutes.

Chemical Mace causes irritations for hours and cannot be easily removed.

Colonel Tolliver has ordered the 1,500 troopers under his command to undergo a four-hour in-service training session on the use of pepper Mace, known by its manufacturer's name as Bodyguard.

During the training sessions, troopers will have pepper Mace sprayed "indirectly" at them.

"If they ever get hit with it, they will need to know what they are up against," Colonel Tolliver explained.

Cpl. Albert B. Shanahan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12, said he was concerned about the training session until he was told that the spray was going to be directed over troopers' heads.

"I think it's a good idea, especially with the super [Colonel Tolliver] leading the way," Corporal Shanahan said.

On the day that Colonel Tolliver tested pepper Mace, he got a reminder of it that night.

"I had gotten it in my hair and had a residual effect from it" when he showered and pepper Mace washed into his eyes.

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