'I'd rather be tasered once a week than be pepper sprayed once a month,' Mugford says

A brief burning sensation, then back to work

By Arthur Johnson

Ahhh, the sweet, soft life of an Iqaluit bylaw enforcement officer.

You put in a full week wrangling vicious dogs on the loose, and being abused by motorists whose behaviour can be even more vicious and beastly.

And then, on a Saturday morning, you and your colleagues congregate in a public washroom. You take turns standing against a wall, while guards from the Baffin Correctional Centre dose you with pepper spray.

The first thing you feel is a burning sensation in your eyes. You know better, but you try without success to wipe the hideous stuff out. Your face gets hot and you have trouble breathing.

Worst of all, you know that as long as you have your job, you'll have to endure this torture every year.

"I'd rather be tasered once a week than be pepper sprayed once a month," says Rod Mugford, the City of Iqaluit's chief of bylaw enforcenent, who went through the annual refresher course last Saturday with his four employees. The BCC officials are certified pepper spray instructors.

Mugford speaks with the authority of experience. He received taser training – and was tasered – as a special constable in Medicine Hat, Alta., in 2003. Being tasered, while unpleasant, is not nearly as painful as being pepper sprayed, in his estimation.

That may be why the bylaw officers are required to submit to being sprayed as part of the annual training exercise. Mugford says that he and the others showered immediately after being sprayed, but it still took about 40 minutes for the effects to wear off.

Having experienced it, he has a fair bit of empathy for others who are pepper sprayed. And once sprayed, twice cautious in its use. "You always ask yourself, ‘Is this the right time to be using pepper spray?'"

In fact, Mugford says, he has only used pepper spray in Iqaluit on dogs, and then only rarely. "I've used it once or twice in situations where I was on my own and it was an emergency."

The more common method of dealing with vicious dogs is to hit them with a tranquilizing dart fired by a rifle. "They just go to sleep and we can subdue them before they wake up."

Pepper spray does have the same basic effect on dogs that it does on humans – ‘You take the aspect of aggression down to zero.'

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