One of the most exotic of all future crowd control technologies is the malodorant. The Israelis have actually developed a compound they call Skunk that smells so bad that it's incapacitating.
Skunk is an organic compound that its inventor says is safe to drink. But few people would want to drink it. The stuff reportedly smells like a combination of an open sewer and rotted meat. It can be sprayed out of a water cannon or shot in a paintball round, and the smell lasts for days no matter how hard the person scrubs.
LASD's Osborne believes malodorants such as Skunk may have a place in future riot control arsenals. "If the purpose is to disperse people, then anything that causes people to want to get away is a good thing," he says.
Osborne also thinks a dose of Skunk applied to some agitators might make it easier for a peaceful demonstration to stay peaceful. "If you made the agitators smell bad enough to gag you, that would be a fairly effective way to allow the legal and peaceful protestors to do what they do without exposing them to negative consequences."
A Softer Approach
Despite the cool factor of such things as heat rays and malodorants, riot control experts are skeptical that they will be fielded by law enforcement any time soon.
Elliott Grollman, a POLICE-TREXPO advisor and an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Northern Virginia Community College, says that most law enforcement agencies are using a softer approach to crowd control because of fears of liability.
And when it comes to riot control technology, Grollman likes proven tools like PepperBall guns, FN303 launchers, and OC spray. "I really like OC," says the veteran of many Washington, D.C.-area demonstration details. "OC can be used localized, and it is a very effective tool."
LASD's Osborne also warns agencies not to get seduced by high technology without considering all of the possible repercussions of fielding that technology. "Sometimes in the heat of battle, we just don't think what's going to happen next and that's something we have to think about with these things," Osborne cautions. "None of these things are perfect."
What riot control technologies are you most looking forward to law enforcement using? Sound off in the comments below.