Good morning!  One question officers are asked when talking to groups about personal safety is, “Should I carry pepper spray?” This is usually followed by, “Where can I buy it?”

No officer can tell you whether you as an individual should or should not carry pepper spray, unless, of course, it is illegal in your jurisdiction.  That applies to any sort of weapon.  You have to make that choice based on your own skills, comfort level, and abilities.

I am not here to make you an expert in the various types of pepper spray on the market, and I don’t claim to be.  There is a lot of information out there on the Internet about what is available.  Here is an example of an informative article I located which is very descriptive:

Here is my Reader’s Digest version for the time-challenged. Educate yourself on the various types of aerosol chemical irritants.  Understand the distance the spray you choose reaches, the way in which it comes out (mist, stream, or foam), and understand what it does to the person you spray.  How will it affect you?  I have used pepper spray on a handfull of resisting or aggressive suspects in my career.  It was not always effective and worked very well on the other officers at the scene, which was counter-productive.  If you have asthma be cautious about what you choose.

Almost without fail, I had to revert to good old-fashioned police holds and take downs to accomplish my goal when the spray missed or did not affect the bad guy.  In fact, the second biggest fight in my career involved a person who was high and was unaffected after being sprayed twice directly in the face.   I had to shift gears to plan B and use other “tools” to accomplish my goal of protecting myself and arresting him.  In other words, I had to physically fight him.

There are definitely success stories out there about pepper spray working for people being assaulted.  I know, off the top of my head, of one elderly woman who was out walking and was attacked.  She promptly sprayed the guy in the face and left him on the sidewalk for officers to find him squirming and crying.  He was the guy with the orange face, which made him easy to identify.

Ultimately, you are ahead of the game already if you are thinking about or already carrying something for protection.  This means you are thinking about “what if” and have a plan.   If you have been to my class you know this is one of my suggestions.  I highly encourage and support planning ahead.

No matter what you decide to carry, just know what it does, what it does to you if you lose the can and it is sprayed at you, how it can fail, and what you will do if/when it does. My biggest worry is becoming complacent because you have a false sense of security with pepper spray in your pocket, or however you decide to carry it.  It is important not to place all of your eggs in one defensive basket.

Have you considered a whistle or a very high lumen flashlight as additional tools?  Perhaps a personal body-guard?  😉  Watch for more on safety while you are out walking or running. Be safe, enjoy your day, and keep your eyes up! -cb