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Pepper spray ready for frisky suspects BALTIMORE COUNTY


Take red hot cayenne pepper -- a lot of it -- condense it into an oily liquid that clings to human skin, and put that liquid into a small canister that can spray a fine stream about 10 feet.

It's not a recipe for a new sauce, but rather "pepper spray," a Mace-like spray that can disable someone for as long as 25 minutes. It is the newest tool in the Baltimore County police force's arsenal.

"You wouldn't want this on your taco," said Col. Leonard J. Supenski, head of the department's technical services bureau. "It's a natural organic compound in a super-concentrated format."

Baltimore County has begun training and equipping about 1,400 patrol officers and detectives with pepper spray, considered a nonlethal means of disabling a violent suspect.

Colonel Supenski said studies have shown pepper spray to be effective, yet not as harmful as other chemical sprays.

"This is a move to give officers another tool," Colonel Supenski said. It could be used rather than a police club or handgun.

Someone sprayed with it would experience temporary blindness, breathing difficulties and burning in the throat.

County police officers began receiving the pepper spray last week. The entire force should be equipped by the end of the year. The $25,000 cost is being paid by a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

The NIJ will study the use of pepper spray in Baltimore County to decide whether to recommend it to other law enforcement agencies.

In Maryland, Baltimore City and Howard County police use pepper spray. State police are considering it.

The technical name for pepper spray is oleoresin of capsicum, or OC for short. In researching the spray, county police said they found agencies that use it had a decrease in the number of assaults and injuries to police officers, said E. Jay Miller, county police spokesman.

"This will stop people on drugs or PCP," he said. "Bullets won't stop them sometimes. But this will knock them down."

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