Campus police at the University of Windsor will be the latest Ontario campus outfitted with pepper spray, just as soon as its special constables receive training.
Plans for the deployment of pepper spray canisters and the accompanying training for constables are outlined in a letter from Windsor police Chief Al Frederick to the police board late last month.
Frederick explains that a new agreement with the university allows special constables to use pepper spray. Those constables are expected to receive training by Windsor police "in the near future," the chief wrote.
The school's Campus Community Police referred interview requests to the school's communication office, but no one responded to CBC News Tuesday.
Students on campus were quick to offer their opinions Tuesday.
"I don't think our campus is known for something that's very aggressive or violent, so I don't know why we would need something like that. Maybe for safety reasons, but what kind of safety reasons?" said Simrath Singh, a second-year business student. "I don't feel safe [with] campus police [having] something like that, that can be used against me."
Jaydee Tarpeh, president of the University of Windsor Students' Alliance, was shocked by the news that constables would be equipped with pepper spray.
"I was honestly stunned. What are the reasons that campus police are thinking about that makes them want to request the use of pepper spray?" he said. "What are the trends you can show me that indicates the need for pepper spray on campus?
Pepper spray the safer option
Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., equipped its special constables with pepper spray back in 2006, a move that improved student safety and gave campus police a safer way to deal with confrontational situations, according to Donna Moody, director of campus security and emergency preparedness.
Constables there have used pepper spray in four instances since January 2007. Every incident involved people resisting arrest or brandishing a weapon, none of whom were Brock students, Moody explained.
An incident just last month involved a man who had a knife and resisted arrest. The constable was able to use pepper spray and arrest the man without incident.
The university selected pepper spray over other options it considered, such as the use of an extendable baton. But a baton can simply lead to further confrontation and lead to potentially more dangerous situations, according to Moody.
"You're looking for something that can incapacitate them from a distance that is a safe distance because, if someone has a knife you can actually deploy the pepper spray from eight to 10 feet back without becoming engaged with the suspect that you're trying to disarm or you're trying to contain," she said.
Other schools where campus police receive training for the use of pepper spray include the University of Guelph, McMaster University and Western University, according to a 2012 report from the Ontario Association of College and University Security Administrators.
That same report indicates the University of Windsor has more special constables per capita than any other Ontario university with its own campus police.
The University of Windsor's campus had one special constable for every 696 students. The closest comparison in 2012 was Wilfrid Laurier University, which had one special constable for every 1,067 students. The University of Waterloo had the lowest ratio with one constable for every 1,889 students.
Use of special constables
Getting approval for pepper spray use has been a lengthy process in Windsor.
Campus police officials pushed for permission back in 2007 in the lead-up to contract negotiations. At the time, the special constables said several other universities were already using the use-of-force option as part of their security measures.
To get approval for pepper spray use, the University of Windsor hired a firm to study its use back in 2008. The study included a review of professional standards, risk assessment and input from stakeholders.
The union representing the special constables got the university's support by 2013, at which time university officials agreed to request Windsor police approve the use of pepper spray.
Windsor police agreed to arm on-campus special constables with pepper spray in October 2014, according to Frederick's letter.