Panel: Test Less-Lethal Crowd Control Weapons


An independent panel that investigated the death of Boston college student Victoria Snelgrove called yesterday for national testing and policies for crowd-control weapons such as the one that killed her, reports the Boston Globe. Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole plans to meet with officials of the Justice Department’s research arm, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), to persuade them to undertake the effort. The death last October of Snelgrove, shot in the eye by a pepper-pellet gun, is one of several recent injuries or deaths involving police departments using crowd-control weapons. “There are no national standards or certification for the testing of this weapon,” said former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, panel chairman. “We hope that our recommendations will point not only the Boston Police Department, but police departments across the country, in the right direction when it comes to the use of less-lethal weapons.”

Stern said that the technology of such weapons, including stun guns and beanbag guns, has outpaced police departments’ policies, training, and tactics. Without federal regulations guiding police departments, the weapons can be dangerous, he said. “If used properly, we believe that these weapons can be useful and can save lives,” he said. “But, if not done with care or if done with inadequate training, in fact such weapons can increase injuries and can increase the likelihood of death.” NIJ director Sarah Hart welcomed a discussion “with the law enforcement community, manufacturers, and Congress how standards could improve the safety and effectiveness of less-lethal weapons.”


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