Perhaps the most contentious moment so far from today's oversight hearing on the Texas Youth Commission involved the agency's contentious pepper spray policy, when Sen. Whitmire complained that critics of TYC's pepper spray use had "demagogued the issue to death," declaring that "the people who I listen to and I trust" tell him it was important to keep pepper spray in the "arsenal."
Asked his position on the topic, Conservator Richard Nedelkoff replied cautiously that in other states like California, "somebody" ... "like the federal government," would come in and tell the state they couldn't use OC spray, and said he wanted to look at what happened in those cases and what policies they implemented in response. Whitmire replied that he didn't care what they did in California (and by implication, what the federal government tells him).
I wonder if the Senator will care if the feds impose similar conditions under the new Agreed Order? His friend and recently deposed executive director Dimitria Pope didn't really care much for court orders, either.
Until then, as far as he's concerned, Whitmire said, "If you don't want to get sprayed, do what they tell you."
Alright, then! I'm guessing that won't turn out to be the final policy.
MORE: Emily Ramshaw at the Dallas News covers this aspect of the hearing, and attributes a stronger position to Mr. N opposing pepper spray than I took from his comments at the hearing today. Apparently agency spokesman Jim Hurley clarified after the hearing, which I couldn't attend (babysitting duties), that the policy published last fall in the Texas Register and which was awaiting final approval would not be enacted by the new conservator:
Mr. Nedelkoff "wants to use other measures, and much better training, to dramatically scale it back," said agency spokesman Jim Hurley, following a nearly four-hour hearing where lawmakers quizzed the conservator on everything from the qualification of TYC staff to whether certain youth lock-ups should be closed.
Pepper spray "is still in the arsenal. But the policy that was in place, he's pulling it back."