LA County Board of Supervisors votes to eliminate pepper spray from juvenile halls, camps

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to eliminate the use of pepper spray in juvenile halls and camps.

The change is expected to be phased in over the next 10 months.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended banning the use of pepper spray following a scathing report by the Office of Inspector General on Feb. 4, 2019, which found abusive and potentially criminal use of pepper spray by some probation staffers.

"There are alternatives, they are not easy, any more than disciplining your child without hitting them is easy," Kuehl said. "If we want to teach nonviolence to young people, we have to start with ourselves."

The board also called for increasing staffing, training and additional oversight of the Probation Department.

Pepper spray is banned from juvenile facilities in 35 states, and California is one of only five states to allow probation officers to carry it.

Probation officials say the majority of staffers don't use pepper spray but it's used, they use it in line with police. However, the Office of Inspector General report found some use it as the first line of defense, sometimes escalating non-violent situations.

Staff sometimes misreported the use of force, saying youth were aggressive when video surveillance showed otherwise and also failed sometimes to decontaminate them increasing the prolonged effects of pepper spray such as pain and temporary blindness, according to the OIG report.

Kuehl described it as "a form of torture" worse than mace and Supervisor Kathryn Barger called it "painful" and "inhumane."

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team is set to hold a hearing in March to tackle other safety recommendations laid out in the OIG report, including more cameras, more reporting and more staff training.

CNS contributed to this report.