Pepper Spray Phase Out to Start at Juvenile Camps in July

Los Angeles County Probation Chief Terri McDonald says the phasing out of pepper spray in juvenile lockups will not happen at the end of 2019, a timeline given to the department by county supervisors.

The full elimination of pepper spray at juvenile facilities is expected in 2020 and will begin as early as this summer.

"We are removing it by July in the camps," McDonald said.

The phase out is a four-stage approach — a voluntary stage, where staffers will have the option to not carry pepper spray, a restricted stage in which only certain staff will have it and a secured stage, where two canisters will be kept in a lock box and used in emergencies, and finally, elimination.

The plan says training deemed insufficient will be replaced with a new approach that also involves giving probation staff assistance with stress reduction, personal wellness and how to deal with trauma fatigue.

"We are asking the board of supervisors to consider adding more staff," McDonald said.

The union representing probation officers in juveniles halls and camps says it's concerned about the timeline.

"The report outlines an ambitious plan, but we are concerned that the timeline is too short for an effective implementation," said Hans Liang, the president of AFSCME Local 685. "In addition, the department needs to consult with staff and gather their input regarding these proposed changes. We want to ensure that the training will be comprehensive and consistent. We believe these new skills that our members will have to learn cannot be done in a single two or three day training."

The County board of supervisors called for a ban after an investigation by the County's Office of Inspector General found excessive and troubling uses of pepper spray. The OIG's report came after the NBC4 I-Team found a 154 percent increase over a three-year period in pepper spray use.

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