Wednesday 29 July 2015

Difficult decisions that are hard to make (Part I)

Throughout our lives from an early age to our deaths, we have to make decisions. We make up to at least 5,000 decisions each day—what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat, etc. Then there are the important decisions like, whom should I marry, for whom shall I vote, when should I retire?  As you can see, most of our decisions are easy but others require considerable thought before making them. And then there are decisions that are extremely difficult to make. In this article, I will present to you some really hard decisions people had to make and you can decide for yourselves what your decisions would be if you were faced with the following problems they faced. Feel free to put your own opinions in this blog.

Police recruits used as lab rats                   

Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP-federal police) made the decision to use new recruits as guinea pigs in a study evaluating the effects of different concentrations of pepper spray the recruits. While the recruits were made aware they were participating in a study, they were not told what concentrations they were receiving. Of course, they could close their eyes when pepper sprayed.  There were also told that participation was mandatory.                                       

Pepper spray is a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain and temporary blindness. Its inflammatory effects cause coughing and a runny nose and forces the eyes to close thereby taking away vision. This temporary blindness allows officers to more easily restrain subjects.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chilies. Extraction of oleoresin capsicum from peppers requires capsicum to be finely ground, from which capsaicin is then extracted using an organic solvent such as ethanol. The solvent is then evaporated and the remaining wax-like resin becomes oleoresin capsicum. It sticks on the body but can be washed off.

The effects of pepper spray are severe. The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray of the average full effect lasts around thirty to sixty minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours. Temporary blindness can last from 15–30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin can last from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms will force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing will make it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.

For those suffering with asthma, taking other drugs, or subject to restraining techniques that restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. There were in the USA at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990. The US Army concluded in a 1993 Aberdeen Proving Ground study, that pepper spray could cause carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity that may bring about possible human fatalities. For this reason, there is a risk in using this product on people a large and varied population. Nevertheless, it is still used by police forces.

The RCMP said in a statement that each cadet was exposed to Oleoresin Capsicum Spray (OCS) in a “controlled environment during Week 7 of their training to make them “aware of the physiological/psychological responses that occur when exposed.”

I think that was a stupid reason to force the recruits to that kind of exposure. It is not unlike shooting them in the leg to show them how difficult it would be to walk immediately after being shot.

The RCMP said that each concentration was evaluated to determine what, if any, effect the pepper spray had on an officer’s performance (judgment, decision-making, confidence, tactics and officer safety, operational skills performance, and physical effects) as well as for any officer safety concerns.

Any officers that are using pepper spray on a crowd would no doubt be wearing some form of breathing apparatus and for that reason; they would not be directly affected by the pepper spray.

The RCMP also said that the information collected would form part of the evaluation to determine if another pepper spray concentration should be approved for use.

The RCMP confirmed that the force had carried out tests of three different concentrations of pepper spray on four separate cadet troops during May and June 2015. Each troop was exposed to one concentration. The recruits were exposed to a one-second burst of spray to the face and then tasked with locating a radio to call for help. It typically took cadets about 70 seconds to complete the task, at which point they would get treatment. No one was left untreated. I am convinced that if they were shot in the leg to see how far they could walk, they also would eventually get treatment.

The fact cadets couldn’t opt out doesn’t sit well with Rob Creasser, a retired Mountie and spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada. He said he sees value in having new recruits experience what it’s like to be sprayed, but he thinks it should be voluntary.

The Justice Institute of the province of British Columbia which trains municipal police officers stopped exposing recruits to the spray during training. Canada Border Services Agency officers, who also carry pepper spray, are not exposed to it during their training.

However, a 2007 study out of Simon Fraser University found that a majority of police officers agreed that exposure to pepper spray during training enhanced their ability to defend against assailants, control a suspect and communicate with fellow officers when exposed in the field.

One of the trainers in the RCMP study was quoted as saying to the recruits, “Here is an opportunity to experience pain, discomfort, burning of the skin that will be the worst experience of your life. Fighting through the worst experience of your life is empowering, it makes you feel as though you can survive anything.”

Fighting your way to someone in a freezing river as part of a study is life empowering but should anyone be subjected to that exercise as part of a study so that they will feel that they can survive anything? 

The recruits may have felt compelled to participate in the study based on two possible fears. The first being that their fellow recruits would call them cowards and secondly, they might have believed that to refuse to participate in the study, it may have an affect on their future in the RCMP.

If you were one of the recruits, would you refuse to participate in the RCMP pepper spray study?  

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