County may OK pepper spray for employee safety - Albuquerque Journal

County may OK pepper spray for employee safety

(Roberto E. Rosales/Journal file)

Bernalillo County leaders want to amend the county’s weapons policy so employees can carry pepper spray in the event they encounter trouble coming into or leaving work.

According to the proposed policy change, “The county recognizes that employees may encounter unsafe circumstances during their ingress and egress to Alvarado Square. This policy is intended to allow employees to have pepper spray while outside of work in an emergent circumstance.”

Hundreds of employees work at Alvarado Square, the Downtown headquarters the county opened a year ago to consolidate operations previously spread out in multiple facilities. The county bought the building at 415 Silver SW, formerly home to Public Service Company of New Mexico, in 2017 and has spent $72 million on the project so far. The county’s current “Workplace Violence Policy” prohibits employees from having weapons – including “any device principally designed to cause bodily injury” – on county property unless they are law enforcement personnel or have approval to carry a weapon as part of their job duties.

The proposal going before the County Commission Tuesday adds language exempting pepper spray.

“The carrying of pepper spray by employees at Alvarado Square for self-defense purposes is allowable and pepper spray will not be considered a weapon under this policy unless other parameters of this policy are violated,” the proposed new language states.

If approved by the commission, the policy would allow workers to carry a single pepper spray canister up to 3 ounces, but they would have to notify Risk Management in writing and keep it concealed while in the building.

A spokesman said the policy change is not tied to any incident but rather employee inquiries.

“There’s concerns (that) we are in a Downtown area; the county can protect its building, but once you get out of the property you have to protect yourself,” spokesman Tom Thorpe said. “People have asked for the ability to do that and the county says ‘absolutely.’ ”

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