Jail school

Morgan County correctional officer Dewayne Whitt, one of 17 officers in a jail-management course in Athens, screams as he is zapped in the back with a stun gun Friday. Whitt is being held by Limestone County officers Joe Evans, left, and Jacob Rupp. The officers had to take pepper spray in the face before completing the two-week course. Some also volunteered for the stun-gun test.

Getting hit with a bolt of electricity or getting shot in the face with pepper spray is not something many people look forward to, but in order to get certified, 17 new law-enforcement officers had to do just that Friday.

“Boy, it burns like the devil,” said Gene Foust, a corrections officer with the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department who had just been hit in the face with pepper spray. “No, I’ve never felt anything like that before.”

The 17 officers, eight from Limestone County, eight from Morgan County and one from Colbert County, were completing a two-week jail-management course that required each correctional officer to be sprayed with the pepper spray. Although not required, some of the officers also wanted to be shocked with a stun gun, to see how it feels.

“Why not?” asked Joe Evans, a Limestone County officer who was one of three who volunteered to be stunned in the back. “Why not get the full affect?”

“Yeah, if you are going to be a bear, why not be a grizzly?” said Sgt. Charles Collier, who was there to help conduct the school.

The course is designed for both municipal and county jailers. With the growing number of lawsuits being filed against jails, jailers and jail administrators, no agency that maintains a jail can afford not to send their jail personnel to this course, said Instructor Ronnie Lay with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

The curriculum for the jail-management course has been approved and adopted by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.

Some of the subjects taught in this course include history of jails, ethics, loyalty and morale, special-needs inmates, basic jail security, handcuffing and other subjects.

The rough stuff kicked in Friday, the last day of the course.

“Ya’ll going to be happy that wind is blowing when you get sprayed,” said Limestone County Deputy Jonathan Hinton, who was there to watch his fellow officers. “You are going to need all the help you can get.”

Limestone County’s Chuck Snider was one of the officers who decided to be shocked and sprayed.

“It burns like hell,” Snider said after being sprayed with pepper. “It’s a whole lot worse than the Taser.”

“Give me a drink,” yelled Limestone officer Jacob Rupp after he was sprayed in the face. “I’m blind, I need a doctor.”

As soon as water hits the eyes, the burning worsens, said Hinton and others witnessing the training.

“It just has to have time to wear off — about 30 minutes,” Hinton said. “When they go home and take a shower, the burning will come back.”

Some officers had to hold their tongues.

“I wanted to curse everybody here, but I couldn’t,” said David Terry, a Morgan County officer who was shot in the back with the stun gun. “It felt 100 times worse than a cramp. It felt like all my muscles were cramped up. If anybody says they can fight when this is going on, they are crazy.”

“It didn’t really hurt, the shock just felt weird,” said Limestone County’s Tom Gilbert Jr. of the stun gun. “It wasn’t comfortable at all.”

Limestone County officers taking the course included, Snider, Norma Underwood, Brian Cantrell, Gilbert, Rupp, Evans, Faust and Keith Chandler.

“The purpose of this course is to make them all better officers,” Collier said.

While at the police academy last year, Hinton said he saw videotape showing how a 450- to 500-pound bull was disabled when hit with a stun gun.

“It’s just like sticking your finger in a wall socket,” Collier said. “It makes you shimmer and shake until it quits.”

“We had some cursing and some calling the Lord for help,” said Limestone County Jail Lt. Vanessa Rich after the officers were stunned. “They now know what it is like.”

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