Police in 22 U.S. and Canadian cities are testing “blunt impact projectiles” that cause suspects excruciating pain but do not kill them, the Associated Press reports. Police have “nonlethal” weapons at their disposal, including pepper spray, stun guns and beanbag projectiles. Those weapons have caused deaths, leading to a search for “less lethal” alternatives. The quest has taken on new urgency amid furor over high-profile police shootings of black men. Micron Products Inc., based in Fitchburg, Ma., makes the new ammunition, which are much larger than rubber bullets and have silicone heads that expand and flatten on impact, enhancing the pain and incapacitating a suspect.
An executive of the company that patented the technology who tested it said it was the “equivalent of being hit by a hockey puck.” “It was like, ‘Ow!’ I had to shake it off,” said Allen Ezer of Security Devices International, a defense technology company that hired Micron to make the projectiles. Sixteen law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and six in Canada have purchased them, including SWAT units of the Los Angeles County and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Departments in California, and police departments in East Hartford, Ct.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Los Alamos, N.M. The product has its limits. While it could subdue an armed suspect from a distance in a standoff situation, it probably wouldn’t be useful during sudden confrontations, said Sheriff Toby Wishard of Codington County, S.D., who bought the projectiles several months ago but hasn’t used them yet.