The Cass County Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy recruits were required to take an eyeful of pepper spray during a staged obstacle course June 29.
“It’s going to hurt but I’m ready,” said 42-year-old recruit Derek Van Brunt, of Peculiar, moments before it was his turn.
Each time Cass County Sheriff Cpl. Russ Mapes sprayed the solution of Oleoresin Capsicum into the eyes of each of the academy’s 19 recruits, the officers-in-training were required to draw a fake gun on another student acting as a criminal and order them to lay on the ground.
“Before the taser, (pepper spray) was one of the first lines of defenses that deputies could use on a suspect that was going to fight or run,” said Mapes, a 31-year veteran instructor.
The recruits then had to put the actor in handcuffs then fight off two other “criminals” attempting to take the officer’s gun while blinded from the spray’s burn.
“That stuff got in my eyes and it was lights out,” recruit Evan Hicks, 27, of Belton, said.
The third portion of the obstacle course required recruits to then take two shots with a handgun at a target before heading to another area to wash out their eyes.
Throughout the exercise, recruits encouraged their classmates as they went through the obstacle course that was set up in the Sheriff’s Office parking lot.
The exercise was graded on a pass/fail basis.
“If they gave up, threw their gun down and quit, they would have quit the whole academy,” Mapes said. “They had to fight through it.”
Afterwards, Van Brunt said the sensation of the burn was possibly the worst thing he has ever experienced, but was naturally happy it was over.
Saturday’s training was one of the most intense scenarios recruits will undergo in the rigorous 10-month law enforcement training program which began in February that helps prepares new law enforcement for situations that could occur in their line of duty.
“The reason why you want to be OC-ed is so you can fight back,” Mapes said.
In Cass County, deputies must go through pepper spray training every three years.
“It depends on the agency, or what’s required from the OC-manufacturer,” Mapes said. “When and if they get resprayed again, then they will be able to fight through it a lot better than what they did already.”
Later in the program, recruits will be tasered as part of the training, a requirement for passing the academy.