State Capitol Groundskeepers Want To Be Armed With Pepper Spray

Scott Lettieri
September 19, 2019 - 10:22 am
California State Capital in Sacramento.

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(KCBS Radio)  — The union that represents state groundskeepers has filed a grievance with the state after several attacks on its members in Sacramento. 

It's asking permission to arm its members with pepper spray so they can defend themselves against the attacks, which were allegedly carried out by homeless people. 

These workers maintain the state capitol's grounds and the surrounding areas. 

"We've had five incidents in the last two months, and each week that goes by, the incidents seem to get a little more aggressive," said Steve Crouch, the Director of Public Employees for the International Union of Operating Engineers, bargaining unit 12. "Homeless people are living or camping in those areas, and they get agitated by the noise from the leaf blowers or the lawn mowers, and they come out and confront the groundskeepers, and on a couple of occasions now, they've actually attacked them."

The workers would only be allowed to use the pepper spray for defense.

"It's not for aggressive action towards homeless people, it's when you're being challenged, when you're being attacked, it's a way to defend yourself," said Crouch. 

The Department of General Services will make the call as to whether to grant the union's request.

If it does, pepper spray would be offered to workers across the state.

"So it covers Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and those areas where we have large state buildings and also large homeless populations," Crouch said. 

Homeless advocates say arming people with pepper spray does nothing to address the state's homeless crisis.