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Following LA County Inspector General report, a look at the pros and cons of banning pepper spray in juvenile probation facilities

Officer Anthony Russo demonstrates the proper way to discharge pepper spray.
Officer Anthony Russo demonstrates the proper way to discharge pepper spray.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

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Staff at L.A. County's juvenile halls and camps use pepper spray on kids too often, too quickly, and in situations when it isn't necessary, according to a report issued by the county's inspector general.

And the use of the pepper spray — sometime referred to OC spray, for the chemical irritant oleoresin capsicum — has increased dramatically since 2015.

"The need for reform, investigation, and oversight may never have been as vital as it is now," Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said after the report was presented Tuesday to the board of supervisors.

Using pepper spray is supposed to be the "final and ultimate authorized" way to "subdue youth," according to probation department policy. But the report concluded that probation staff commonly reach for pepper spray first before employing other deescalation measures. The report also noted several incidents where "the use-of-force reports filed by staff described youth behaviors as aggressive or threatening, even when available video footage showed that youth appeared to pose no threat to staff."

For more on this story from LAist, and to read the full OIG report, click here.


Dominique Nong, senior policy associate for Children’s Defense Fund California, a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization and a branch of the National Children’s Defense Fund

Jim Salio, immediate past president of Chief Probation Officers of California; Chief Probation Officer for San Luis Obispo County