1. Archive

Police apologize for pepper spray training

The city's police commissioner apologized Friday for a course that taught cadets that pepper spray doesn't always subdue Mexican-Americans and other ethnic groups because of their tolerance for spicy foods.

"There is no empirical or scientific evidence to support these statements," Commissioner Ronnie Watson said, adding that such instruction will be dropped from the cadet curriculum.

Police in the city that is home to Harvard University use the spray to quell people resisting arrest.

"I can guarantee you the ingestion of pepper orally does not increase the resistance of eye tissue to pepper spray," said Dr. Nicolas Carballeira, director of policy and planning at the Latino Health Institute. "If it weren't so inherently racist it would be amusing because it is that ridiculous."

Cambridge police Officer Frank Gutoski taught the course in which cadets were told that people exposed to hot peppers at an early age develop a resistance to the spray. He said the information came from the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Council. But council officials denied the recommendation was theirs.

Gutoski did not return calls for comment Friday.

Earlier this week, Gutoski told the Cambridge Chronicle newspaper that longtime ingestion of spicy foods minimizes the spray's effect.

"The people that it doesn't affect are people who have consumed cayenne peppers from the time they are small children, and this generally breaks into ethnic categories," he said.