Manufacturers are competing aggressively to put less-lethal weapons in the hands of police across the country, but critics say the quickly evolving industry remains unregulated, training is sporadic, and product information is often incomplete, the Boston Globe reports. Even officials who embrace the technology express serious concern about the use and abuse of less-lethal options, such as the plastic projectile fired by Boston police in the death of an Emerson College student in October.
The Globe says experts note that there are no government standards for the design and manufacture of the weapons; most training is organized by local police departments, which may have only a rudimentary knowledge of the weapons, or is provided by third-party companies for profit; manufacturers warn police about the possible lethal effects of their weapons, but specific information about the effect of the munitions on the human body can be difficult to obtain. “There’s no one out there who is totally honest or frank, I can tell you that,” said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Commander Charles S. Heal, a globally recognized authority on less-lethal weapons. Dealing with the manufacturers, Heal said, has “definitely made me a cynic.” Nearly every less-lethal device in the law-enforcement arsenal was invented fewer than 20 years ago.