After a year of controversial police killings that have inflamed cities, police departments are in an urgent search for new tools that can spare lives while protecting their own, reports the Los Angeles Times. Manufacturers say “less-lethal” weapons are designed to fill a critical gap between a stun guns and live rounds, allowing officers to strike from farther away than a Taser with sufficient force to knock down an attacker. Instead of viewing these weapons as niche items, officials are considering whether they can be widely deployed, even as standard patrol weapons, to reduce fatal police shootings.
“It's hard to believe in an era where we have drone technology, where we could get a bomb through somebody's window and you could hit them at a dinner table 3,000 miles away with precision, we're still using 1800s technology for policing,” said Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer now on the faculty of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The push to adopt less lethal weapons also has prompted concern among police officers, who say they complicate an already chaotic decision of when to use force. To use these devices, experts say police officers would have to ignore basic academy training when facing life-or-death situations. “I applaud anyone who tries to come up with something,” said Steve Ijames, interim chief of the Republic, Mo., Police Department. “But when you balance all of the issues, the potential benefit with the potential risk and what we are asking officers to do in situations, it simply defies logic.”