By Sarah Lane
Tears of pain weren”t enough to flush out the chemical burn that penetrated every mucus membrane of BYU student security guards Thursday night.
And believe it or not, the suffering was voluntary.
Nearly 20 student security guards took a hit to the eyes as a part of the 40 hours of training that they undergo during the course this semester.
Kirsten Kawasaki, 19, a sophomore from Lanai, Hawaii, with an open major, was nervous, anticipating the outcome of being sprayed.
“I”m already having trouble breathing,” she said as she looked around at her fellow security guards.
Students are given the opportunity to opt out of the pepper spray portion of the training, right up until they are sprayed, but most choose to tough it out.
“It”s a tool and you have to respect it,” said Lt. Aaron Rhoades, in reference to pepper spray. “It”s a rough way to learn respect isn”t it?”
The purpose of the training was two-fold. Students not only learned about the content of pepper spray and the effects of it – they experienced these effects first hand as a steady stream of the burning liquid was sprayed into their eyes.
“For a while, I thought I was going to die,” said Scott McLean, 22, a sophomore from Hamilton, Mont., with an open major.
Hamilton has been a student security guard for the LDS Motion Picture Studio for two and a half months.
“It”s kind of hard to breathe,” he said, flushing his eyes with a hose. “It was worse than I thought it was going to be,” he said.
Not only were students rendered helpless for a brief period, their eyes, ears and noses burned, and they spat, trying to cough the pepper out of their mouths and throats.
Officers from BYU”s police department stressed that the training would help security guards know how to properly react when faced with a similar situation.
“There have been so many officers killed because they were sprayed,” said officer Jim Young.
Officers who aren”t prepared have a hard time dealing with the effects of the spray and aren”t able to defend themselves against further attack, Young said.
Part of the purpose of this training is to help students know what to expect if they face the situation in the future, he said.
In the six years that Young has been training student security, over 400 have encountered the pepper spray training.
“We spend a lot of time and effort trying to train these people,” Young said. “We”re just trying to keep up with things that can help us to be a lot safer.”