Less Lethal Force

As technology has evolved, so too has the arsenal of weapons available to law enforcement. Firearms and batons have their place, but they aren't always the most effective tool for a given situation. Having a less-lethal option means you can possibly end a confrontation without lethal force.

Melanie Basich 2012 Headshot

As technology has evolved, so too has the arsenal of weapons available to law enforcement. Firearms and batons have their place, but they aren't always the most effective tool for a given situation. Having a less lethal option available means you can start at a lower level on the use-of-force continuum and possibly end a confrontation without resorting to lethal force. It's a good option to have.

Advanced Materials Laboratories Inc.

Manufactured in Israel by ISPRA, the ProtectoJet Model 5 is a pepper ejector that can deploy OC, CS, or CN as a fog. Evaporated solution contains powerful floating-in-air particles that will affect a large group of aggressors within a few seconds from up to 60 yards in still air.

Every facility in the Colorado Department of Corrections uses the ProtectoJet Model 5, says Central Armorer Lt. Ben Perez. "They use it for cell extractions," he says. "It keeps the officers safer. Once they can spray the OC into the cell, compliance is much easier."

Before the ProtectoJet, Colorado corrections officers often didn't use OC for extractions. Now they routinely use the Model 5 to resolve a variety of situations.

"Arkansas Valley recently had a disturbance in a chow hall, and they went in and gave a dose from the ISPRA and gained compliance," says Perez. After 20 years successfully using the ProtectoJet Model 5, the CDOC plans to continue its use for many years to come.

With a controlled range of 20 yards and an average repeat capability of 15 one-second bursts, the ProtectoJet is also ideal for SWAT and tactical use. It can be used for hostage and barricade situations as well as patrol, anti-terror, riot, and crowd control applications.

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FNH USA's FN 303 is a versatile air-powered weapon system that fires less-lethal impact munitions. It can be operated as a standalone carbine or it can be mounted on a tactical rifle. The FN 303 Less Lethal System uses a tank of compressed air to fire .68 caliber, 8.5-gram projectiles. What makes these projectiles different is the molded polystyrene casing that incorporates stabilizing fins for accuracy.

As SWAT commander of the Passaic County (N.J.) Sheriff's Department, Capt. Scott Hockwitt has seen multiple incidents successfully resolved using the FN 303.

"One that really sticks out in my mind is a barricaded suspect call," says Hockwitt. "As we were making our entry into the house, he came running toward us downstairs with a meat cleaver raised up over his head. We deployed the FN 303 and struck him in his upraised arm, causing him to drop the meat cleaver. Then we struck him with a couple of impact rounds in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground."

Although only one officer was carrying the FN 303, it was enough to do the job.

"That saved us from having to shoot the guy with lethal force," says Hockwitt. "It saved that guy's life."

Hockwitt and his agency also appreciate the versatility of the various rounds the FN 303 can launch, making it applicable to many types of incidents.

"We normally use the impact rounds the most," says Hockwitt. "But if we got into a situation where there was some kind of riot, and we couldn't actually get to the people, then we'd shoot them with the paint so we could mark the main aggressors and then identify them later. The OC rounds are effective if we just want to launch into an area and contaminate that area with the pepper spray."

Passaic SWAT team members don't always use the FN 303, but one or two people always carry one on a call. Luckily, this is not a burden. "It's very lightweight, so it's easy to carry," says Hockwitt. "In fact, we'll have somebody sling it on their back in addition to their other weapons."

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Lightfield Less Lethal Research

Lightfield Less Lethal Research's line of star-shaped impact munitions look like plastic koosh balls, but they pack a punch. The koosh ball design of the rounds allows them to fit into 12-gauge shells. It also eliminates almost any chance of penetration by the round when used as directed. The sea-urchin-shaped munitions also flatten out, distributing their kinetic energy across a wider area of impact than standard bean bags or sock rounds.

Lt. Joseph Garcia of the U.S. Corrections Special Operations Group (US C-SOG) is the officer in charge for the Berks County Prison SOG team in Pennsylvania. Because corrections officers do not carry lethal weapons, use of long distance less lethal devices is important. Otherwise, officers must come in close contact with inmates, which is inherently dangerous. That's where Lightfield Less Lethal comes in.

"We used Lightfield Less Lethal about a week-and-a-half ago on an inmate in an open housing unit area," says Garcia. "He had hot water he said had bleach in it and he said he had a shank. From a distance, we were able to engage the inmate and deploy two mid-range slugs from the door 30 feet away from us. And we got compliance pretty quick. We were able to hit him once in the shin and once in the calf."

Lightfield sales and training specialist Neil Keegstra says the company's SuperStar can be safely shot at a suspect from as little as two yards out to an effective range of 15 yards. The StarLite contains less powder in the shell and can be used from as little as one yard out to an effective range of 10 yards. Because corrections incidents almost always occur in close quarters, this range is especially important.

"We use them primarily for hostage rescue in what we call a close-quarters operation because of the accuracy of that round," says Garcia. "And it's a little more palatable, instead of blowing some guy's head to smithereens, to knock him out cold."

But one of the biggest selling points for Garcia and his agency is the array of 12-gauge less-lethal munitions that Lightfield Less Lethal offers, allowing officers to escalate along the use-of-force continuum as necessary.

"Using Lightfield Less Lethal munitions is safer for the officer and cleaner for the agency because they're able to justify it more articulately," says Garcia. "It's cleaner all the way around. Even the inmates can understand that if a police officer uses any impact tools, once an inmate says, 'No more,' I automatically hold, and he complies."

Visit Lightfield Less Lethal Research Online

Mace Security International

Take Down Extreme Pepper Gel from Mace Security International is a 1.4 percent capsaicinoids concentration suspended in a gel that sticks like glue on contact and minimizes cross-contamination, making it ideal for use indoors or in windy conditions. And because the gel is a non-flammable formula, it will not ignite with stun guns or similar electronic devices. The 45-gram unit contains seven short bursts with a range of eight to 12 feet.

Officer Karen Muench at the Ohio Division of Water Craft has experience with both wind and electro-conductive devices (ECDs) on the job. That's why her agency recently started using Mace Pepper Gel.

"The original OC we had could not be used with ECDs so our Mace instructors tried the Mace Security International Take Down Pepper Gel Spray," says Muench. "We don't carry ECDs, but we have other agencies in our department that do, and we often work together with them. We need to make sure if we mace somebody and we call for backup from another agency, they know that the mace we have is nonflammable (so they can safely use their electro-conductive devices)."

However, the gel's ability to stick to its intended target is what makes Muench's day-to-day job so much easier now.

"We are in such close quarters because we do a lot of boarding (of boats), so we like that there's very little cross-contamination and it's a direct hit," says Muench. "With the wind issues being out on the water, we have to worry about that more than somebody on the street. The gel hits the subject and sticks; it doesn't run. And it's very accurate at a distance of 15 feet."

To make accurate application even easier, even in the dark, Take Down Extreme Pepper Gel from Mace Security International is now available in a lighted unit. This MK-III model has a flip top safety cap with a bright LED light. The light activates when the cap is lifted. When holding the unit in the ready position, with your thumb placed on the actuator, the light illuminates the area and helps to better aim in low-light situations. Batteries for the LED light are included.

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PepperBall Technologies

Designed for patrol operations, the SA-4 PepperBall launcher is a four-shot chemical irritant pistol with a range of 30 feet. It fires a special ImpactPlus PepperBall cartridge that combines Capsaicin III powder and kinetic impact, delivering 20 foot-pounds of energy. The form factor of the SA-4 is like a cross between a radar gun and a flare gun, but the polymer-framed weapon is very light, weighing a little less than 14 ounces empty.

Officer Bill Phillips of the National City (Calif.) Police Department trained his agency's officers in the use of PepperBall's SA-4, carrying them in a tactical-type drop holster that Phillips says makes it easy to carry on duty. He says the agency's gang and patrol units have gotten a lot of use out of theirs. In one incident, after a long televised pursuit of a stolen car, a patrol unit used the launcher to prevent the man who had bailed out of the car from entering an apartment building on foot.

"The officer actually missed the guy by a few inches, but the guy heard the report from the SA-4 going off-he thought he was being shot at-and he went straight to the ground and gave up," says Phillips. "It was a cool deployment. It was on TV actually."

And that was the agency's very first deployment of the SA-4. It's proven just as effective in many other incidents for National City PD, often without the effect of the PepperBalls. Unlike the air-powered PepperBall launchers that depend more on a cloud of pepper dust to affect subjects with pain in the nose and throat, the SA-4 delivers a stronger impact that's usually enough on its own to gain compliance from a subject, says Phillips.

"I personally think it is just the neatest thing in the world," says Phillips. "For motor officers like me, it's a small tool you can carry with you and I think it's a good tool to use instead of the baton in many cases."

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TASER International's new X3 TASER is a three-shot TASER pistol. That means that officers can now engage up to three subjects without reloading. The cartridges can be fired in order, or the user can choose which cartridge to trigger out of the three. This gives the user the ability to load the X3 with both short range and long range cartridges and choose the cartridge type needed for each confrontation.

Another cool feature of the X3's new cartridge design is its ability to show the electricity arcing across the front of the TASER while it is loaded and the safety is off. This is designed to gain compliance by warning the subject that he or she is about to get zapped.

The X3 also records three types of data. It keeps an event log that shows when the weapon was activated (safety off), if it was arced, and if it was fired. It keeps a pulse log. And it keeps an engineering log that records system performance parameters and reveals malfunctions and maintenance problems.

All of this data can be uploaded to TASER International's new Evidence.com so that supervisors and project managers can analyze TASER use and discover any problems. This aspect of Evidence.com is free to agencies that purchase the X3.

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Melanie Basich 2012 Headshot
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