'Unwarranted and ill-advised': Edmonton Police Association warns against legalizing pepper spray for self-defence

Article content

The president of the Edmonton Police Association says legalizing pepper spray for self-defence would cause more harm than good.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu penned a letter this week calling on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to allow people to carry and use the substance, which is currently a prohibited weapon, as a means of defence amid a rash of hate-motivated attacks in the province.

“I truly appreciate and understand what Minister Madu is trying to achieve because I know the crimes that are occurring against the population are wrong,” said Michael Elliott in an interview. “But I do know that the introduction of pepper spray, or as we know it as OC spray, as a self-defence mechanism, I think, is unwarranted and ill-advised.”

Elliott said it could result in a significant increase in crime and potential attacks on other people, which would place further strain on an already overwhelmed EMS unit.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

He added that when pepper spray is used, people can’t control where it’s going and it can affect other people in the area, including the person using it.

“I can tell you maybe the half a dozen times that I’ve deployed it, I’ve had the residual effects of it and it’s not fun at all,” he said.

Officers are only allowed to use pepper spray on duty if they are “lawfully placed” under the Criminal Code, otherwise they can be charged with assault with a weapon, Elliott said. Each time an officer uses it, they have to report to a supervisor who has to attend the scene to ensure it was used correctly.

“I often wonder who is going to train and make those responsible as a member of the public to use that,” said Elliott. “We had training and had to be exposed to it to understand the effects of it so we can help that person, or persons, that are affected while we wait for EMS or fire to attend.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

At an unrelated announcement Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said he believes Madu’s proposed changes to the Criminal Code are reasonable and he agreed vulnerable people should be able to protect themselves.

“For example, if a vulnerable woman could have a small tool to help defend herself from a violent attack, I think we should absolutely permit that,” said Kenney.

“Obviously, anybody who uses something like that indiscriminately, or not for legitimate self-defence with themselves, would be potentially liable to assault charges. The law would continue to be the law, but a non-lethal tool for individuals to protect themselves from violent attacks, I think is perfectly reasonable.”

At Thursday’s Edmonton Police Commission meeting, Chief Dale McFee said he would need more details as to what the minister’s intent is and clarification on how it would be controlled.

“Certainly there’s some concerns around safety and distribution and I’m not sure if that’s been talked about at this point in time,” said McFee. “Basically how distribution will be controlled and preventions of keeping spray from getting into the wrong hands are obviously going to be of concern.”

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police also released a statement on Thursday, voicing its safety concerns and requesting additional information and dialogue with Madu.

With files from Lisa Johnson and Dustin Cook

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles