When Ponoka County’s peace officers are out on patrol, they can rest assured county council has their backs.
Council recently adopted a policy to allow qualified peace officers to carry and discharge pepper spray.
CAO Charlie Cutforth explained to council the deployment of pepper spray is governed by the provincial Solicitor General’s office and the county’s policy outlines the procedures a peace officer must follow before using the spray, including informing his supervisor whenever possible prior to using the spray, decontaminating the target of the spray, and locking up the spray when off duty.
Coun. Gawney Hinkley opposed the policy. “This is not a good idea. This is just a temptation to irritate someone just a little further.” He was also concerned about the county’s liability if the target of the pepper spray is injured.
Cutforth told council the county’s two peace officers have not encountered a circumstance so far that would have required the use of pepper spray, had they had the tool available to them.
“The hope and intent would be that it never gets used.”
Coun. Paul McLauchlin, a former conservation officer, said he came across some rough customers in his day and had “no mechanism to protect myself.”
“It’s a last-ditch resort weapon. It’s not a weapon to contain someone. It’s a self-protection weapon.”
“We’re not in the business of collaring criminals,” Cutforth said. But the constabulary’s duties are expanding.
Ponoka County has a responsibility to protect its employees when they’re on the job, Coun. George Verheire said. “These boys need our backup.”