In the gray area involving the use of force, between putting your hands on a suspect and using deadly force, is the use of less-lethal or intermediate weapons. The recent 9th Circuit ruling in Bryan v. McPherson discussed the importance of intermediate use-of-force options. In the Bryan case, this less-lethal option was the TASER®.
The Court wrote, “We recognize the important role controlled electric devices like the TASER X26 can play in law enforcement. The ability to defuse a dangerous situation from a distance can obviate the need for more severe, or even deadly, force and thus can help protect police officers, bystanders, and suspects alike.”
Although the Court went on to say that in Bryan v. McPherson the force was excessive because “Bryan was neither a flight risk, a dangerous felon, nor an immediate threat” at the time the TASER was fired, the Court acknowledged the role of these vital tools. The Court talked about the importance of intermediate weapons for officer safety as well as reducing suspect injuries, but it is up to the officer to use these weapons properly and articulate their usage post deployment.
The legitimate goal of less-lethal weapons and devices is to take control of suspects from a safe distance and reduce injuries to officers, bystanders and suspects. Here is the latest in less-lethal.
Training in less-lethal missions is vital, but it can be costly. Many manufacturers offer inert aerosol training products, but they are expensive. The larger the can, the more expensive the cost. ALS Technologies has come out with reloadable and rechargeable training canisters. Filled with regular tap water, the units can be charged via an air compressor. Available in 14 ounce and larger canisters, this is a great way to save money but still conduct valuable and realistic regular training.
New from Sabre® Red is the Blue Face™ pepper spray. Sabre Red products have an awesome 1.33 percent Capsaicinoid level, and they have added blue dye to the mixture. Blue Face will keep suspects’ faces blue for 24 hours, which certainly aids in apprehension when the suspect(s) attempt to flee. This is a particular problem when officers work in bar districts and are sometimes required to break up large fights or disperse rowdy crowds, making identification of troublemakers difficult. With Blue Face, they will certainly be easier to identify.
New from Spitfire® is the Hex®, a chemical agent spray unit that is housed in an unbreakable palm stick or Yawara. The Hex will contain a 10 percent Oleoresin Capsicum solution rated at 2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). An instructor class on the Hex is scheduled for the annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) in April. The program promises to show how the company trainers have merged the usage of a small impact weapon with an OC projector.
The Aegis MK63™ Trident is marketed by Aegis Industries LLC, a company started by former Navy SEAL Ken Stethem. According to Stethem, the MK63 Trident is a Handheld, Modular, Multi-stimulus Response Device, or HMMRD. Incorporating several different less-lethal options in one package, the MK63 looks like a sawed off side handle baton and combines an electronic restraint device, OC pepper spray and an impact device. Also included is an integral 320 lumen LED light. The company states that the OC projector has a range out to 25 feet.
FNH USA has teamed up with Tiberius, the manufacturer of high-end paint ball launchers, to produce a less-lethal impact/chemical munitions launcher. The T4 is a box-fed CO2 launcher that will fire FNH’s line of finned munitions, including: indelible marking paint; washable paint; impact and Pelargonic Acid Vanillylamide (PAVA), which is a synthetic pepper product. With the look and feel of a 5.56 M4 carbine that is familiar to many officers, the T4 promises to be more accurate than traditional ball munitions.
In the less-lethal launcher category, we have the double barrel Double Deuce® 37mm or 40mm launcher from Sage International. With the capability to fire two quick impact or chemical munitions rounds without reloading, the Double Deuce is an impressive weapon system to have pointed in your direction. Later this year, Sage is coming out with a box fed 37mm or 40mm semi-auto launcher. The impressive four or six shot magazines can be loaded with impact, chemical or other munitions, and it can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. Then you can immediately reload with another magazine. Corrections, riot or tactical teams are sure to like the increased firepower of the M37 launcher.
Zarc International, the manufacturer of the Vexor line of pepper spray products (1.45 percent Capsaicinoid level) is coming out with an OC ball launcher. The liquid filled OC balls combine an impact munition with the debilitating effects of Oleoresin Capsicum. The launcher will be made for Zarc by Tiberius, the manufacturer of high-end paint ball launchers. The .68 caliber OC balls should make a serious impact (literally) with suspects.
Combined Systems is made up of Combined Tactical Systems and Penn Arms, both of which market less-lethal munitions and training to law enforcement and the military. The manufacturers of such fine products as the Super Sock™, the company has an interesting new product in development that will hit the market sometime this year. The Light Emitting Diode Incapacitator (LEDI) is a non-invasive less-lethal device which uses intense colored lights that pulse and move to create a sense of disorientation and nausea from a safe distance away while leaving no post ill effects. Combined Systems reports an optimum range from 7 to 30 feet. Imagine being able to disperse bar patrons safely from a distance or move college rioters without resorting to chemical agents. LEDI is an interesting development and one we’ll follow up on.
Safariland now encompasses the former Defense Technologies. Def-Tec is now a brand name. It is coming out with two new flash-bangs. The Mini Bang is a non-reloadable flash-bang that Safariland reports delivers 175 decibels and an 8 million candela flash. The new design from Safariland incorporates octagonal sides which prevent the unit from rolling away from the target point. The same octagonal low roll design is incorporated in the standard size Low Roll flash-bang.
In Bryan, the Court looked to Graham v. Connor for guidance, using the application of the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” test. This is a reminder that each use of force is judged on the totality of the circumstances, including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.
However, the 9th Circuit made a strong and compelling case for less-lethal or intermediate weapons. It is up to agencies to train properly and officers to properly field these intermediate force options. You must make sound use-of-force decisions based on your training and then properly articulate your actions. Less-lethal devices are vital to the law enforcement mission— use them wisely.
Kevin R. Davis is a full-time police officer with 27 years experience and is assigned to his agency’s training bureau. He is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency’s SWAT team. Kevin welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site at www.advancedtacticalconcepts.com.