OGDEN -- Today, Weber State criminal justice professor Bruce Bayley turned over 33 of his students to prison officials at Moundsville, W.Va., for three days of rioting and hostage situations.
Tasering is optional.
"Depending on how many riots they plan to volunteer for and how strenuously they plan to resist, I tell the male students to take groin protection," said Bayley, whose students will portray prisoners in the annual mock prison riots that are designed to train corrections officials in tactical response. Corrections teams come from as far away as Europe and Asia to participate and attend workshops.
The conference began Sunday, with mock riots scheduled today through Wednesday. WSU, now in its fourth year participating, is the only university that attends all four days. Students also can attend many of the workshops otherwise available only to professional corrections officers.
"This is a chance for students to be with the teams, as inmates or hostages, and get a real first-hand experience to see what these teams do," said Bayley, retired from a California corrections career.
"They experience the techniques and technology. Our students get to talk with officers doing the jobs our students are training for, and to get advice and feedback."
It's an intense four days, Bayley said. Students can choose workshops, riot role playing or both.
"They create multiple scenarios, as many situations that actually occur in jails as possible," Bayley said. "It gives teams from one place a chance to show other teams what they do. In Singapore, for example, they do extractions and riots differently than the U.S. teams. It's about strength and dominance in the U.S., and it's more about confusion and speed in Asia."
Bayley said students pay their way to the mock riot, and he often gets more student requests than he can accommodate. Among those who attend are students studying to be local law officers, federal agents, corrections officials and attorneys.
The training "pepper" balls actually spew chalk dust, not cayenne pepper, Bayley said. The training "tear gas" bombs spray non-irritating smoke.
"There are multiple safety officers during the event to make sure role players and officers aren't injured," he said. "There are some minor bumps and scrapes, but serious injuries are rare. Someone might break a bone once from falling down wrong."
Marc Miller, a corrections officer at Weber County Jail, attended last year.
"Everything we did there, I could apply to my job," said Miller, 28, of Ogden. "It's the type of training that everyone in law enforcement is looking for. It's dynamic, hands-on training. You learn more than you can learn any other way."
Miller is skipping this year because he's the father of a newborn, but he hopes to go back in the future.
"There wasn't time for everything," he said. "I watched a few scenarios, but there were classes at the same time, like weapons defense classes, and training I could take to get certified in different areas. I did not volunteer to be a prisoner, but I wanted to."
Bayley said most of his students do volunteer for mock riots.
"We have some crazy people who go out," Bayley said. "I've seen students who beg to get Tased. They sit students down and give them a talk, and if they still want to get Tased, they don't shoot them with darts, they attach alligator clips to their clothing. They ask if you are ready, then turn on the Taser for five seconds, just to give you a sense of what it's like. They give you a coin to commemorate the event. It's almost a rite of passage for a lot of students and officers."
Bayley said event organizers respect the commitment of WSU students.
"They know us," Bayley said. "They appreciate the students being role players, and they like the idea that they are helping to train and encourage our students, who are the next generation of professional officers."
Bayley said the respect is mutual.
"The only complaint I've ever had from students was they wish there was more time, so they could do everything they want to do."