TPS Police Say Pepper Spray Will Stay

Tuesday, September 15th 2009, 5:00 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools has pledged to change the safety rulebook following Friday's football fights.  Tulsa security officers defend using pepper spray to get the rowdy crowd under control.  Tulsa Public Schools is making changes in the wake of the fights.  The district is promising more security and better screening of spectators.

"People will be turned away at the gate, if they don't have the identification," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard.

09/14/2009 Related Story: Security To Increase At All Tulsa High School Sporting Events

But, TPS campus police say there'll be no changes in how they respond to a disorderly crowd.

"We're going to continue to use pepper spray when it's necessary. It's a necessary, low level form of force, and we're going to continue to use it," said TPS Chief of Police Gary Rudick.

Many spectators said they could see the fights, but felt safe in the bleachers.  They say it only became truly chaotic when pepper spray was used. Paramedics treated at least six people for reacting to the chemical.

"They started spraying with mace, people started getting sick.  People got trampled over," said TPS parent Emanuel Collier.

The head of TPS police force says an off-duty Tulsa cop working security used his can of pepper spray first and other TPS security members followed suit.

"I mean, everybody here was getting to the point where they couldn't breathe," said TPS parent Emanuel Collier.

All TPS security officers carry a small, personal can of pepper spray to the games as do off-duty cops hired for security.

"One of the things we try to avoid as long as we can, as much as we can, is to put our hands on people," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Eckert.

The effects of pepper spray are powerful, but fleeting.  Your eyes get red and watery.  You cough a lot, and you get a really bad runny nose.

Sgt. Mike Eckert trains Tulsa cops in crowd control and says pepper spray is the safest way to break-up a fight.

"And, that's how a riot actually begins. It's usually not one big fight.  It's a bunch of small ones that combine," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Eckert.

Eckert says wind does play a role in spreading the chemical and people in the bleachers likely felt the effects from overspray.  He says if you're a spectator and see a fight escalate out of control, you shouldn't wait for police to show up, immediately find your nearest exit as quickly and safely as possible.