Less than lethal force doesn’t work because it requires proper training, and it is new compared to the normal force or weapons. Without the proper training, even if the force is employed in the field, it will fail, and as a result, the situation will eventually worsen.
Officer-citizen encounters, particularly those involving the use of guns by either or both parties, have never been more scrutinized than they are now. Less-lethal weapons are also vital instruments for law enforcement, possibly now more than ever, because in some cases, they provide an alternative force choice that is less likely to result in fatalities while still being effective.
Electronic control weapons (ECWs), tasers, batons, and pepper spray, the three principal less-lethal weapons used by police enforcement, are already in common use. Experts anecdotally claim that interest in less-lethal weapons is running high.
Less-lethal choices were initially controversial due to concerns that they caused preventable injuries or fatalities as they gained popularity. However, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, around 39 percent of all use-of-force incidents end in a suspect injury. Still, that rate drops to 22.1 percent when police use only pepper spray or an ECW (25.1 percent).
Although there is still some debate, industry experts believe that new technologies, combined with proper training, can make these weapons safer and more reliable than ever before.
According to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, better training could assist. Wexler, speaking at a policing task committee in January, Wexler described today’s police training as “very scattered.” Scenario-based training is required, which simulates fast-changing, frequently chaotic situations and teaches officers how to respond “in ways that mirror what actually happens on the street.”
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