05/14/2004

30 Ky. Jail Deputies Endure Grueling Training

By Justin Willis, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ken.)

Nearly 30 jail deputies from throughout western Kentucky are concluding a weeklong training segment today in Daviess County that prepares them to handle emergency situations inside their facilities.

The deputies participated Thursday in the most grueling day of the course, which is informally coined "hell day" by participants. During a six-hour block of time the deputies were pepper sprayed, exposed to different types of tear gas and shot with taser guns, bean-bag guns and plastic balls filled with pepper powder.

One of the first reactions after being blasted with pepper spray for the first time is panic, said Daviess County jail Sgt. Ken Ehlschide, an instructor in the course.

Being exposed to the effects of a variety of crowd control weapons will give deputies an upper hand in a real scenario and minimize the panic, Ehlschide said.

The training occurs annually and rotates among locations in western Kentucky. Deputies will take a written test today, and passing will allow them to serve on emergency response teams at their home jails. Facilities from Warren, Boyd, Graves, Logan, Metcalfe, Grayson, Henderson and Christian counties participated.

A blast of pepper spray to the face feels as though one's eyes are burning and covered with sand, said Henderson County jail Deputy Ricky Hammers. The experience with pepper spray was his second, he said.

"You can't keep your eyes open," Hammers said. "You never get used to that."

During the week, deputies participated in classroom training and drills at the Masonville Fire department. Segments included training about entering cells, using explosive distraction devices and surviving knife attacks. Deputies underwent classroom instruction in the proper use of force and when it is necessary, said Mike Ethridge, branch manager for the Division of Correctional Training in Louisville.

The Daviess County Detention Center has a Special Response Team of 12 people. Daviess County Jailer David Osborne said he was pleased to have the training offered locally this year.

Use of the team is rare but is a good safeguard to have at the jail and available for the community if needed, he said.

"I think it reduces liability for the county and state," Osborne said. "Most of the time inmates behave when they see them coming."

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