Non-Lethal Weapons: Are They Really Safer?

Non-lethal weapons are being implemented more and more by police departments around the world. These weapons are designed to stop, deter, and subdue suspects without the risk of killing them. The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations and Physicians for Human Rights worked together on a report and they discovered non-lethal weapons are actually killing people.

The joint report focused on the non-lethal options that police use in order to control crowds. These weapons consist of tear gas, flash bangs, military-grade sound cannons, rubber bullets and other projectile rounds not designed to penetrate flesh. An excerpt from the report about crowd control weapons can be found below.

“The common understanding of CCWs is that they are non-lethal and preferable to the use of more injurious means of dispersing a crowd. However, this report has shown that these weapons can often result in significant injuries, disability, and even death.”

According to the report, projectiles like rubber bullets and bean bag rounds are some of the more dangerous non-lethal weapons at the disposal of police departments. The report looked at 1,925 people who were impacted with a non-lethal projectile round. Out of those 1,925 people, 53 died and 15 suffered permanent injury. The report also stated that 70 percent of the 1,925 people who were injured had injuries that were stated to be severe.

Many organizations that use non-lethal weapons use them based on what the manufacturer says about them. Because they base the use of these weapons on what the manufacturer says, very little, if any, testing is done by the agencies themselves. The report claims that this lack of testing equates to a lack of understanding of what these weapons actually do.

“While CCWs may theoretically offer an option for reduced force, in practice, and perhaps because of the assumption that they are always less lethal, the weapons are often used in an indiscriminate manner, without exhausting all other possible peaceful means first.”

James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police spoke with the Huffington Post about the report submitted by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations and Physicians for Human Rights.

“Before people jump to conclusions based on the report, we need to take a hard look at the underlying supporting data for less-than-lethal weapons, and that’s what we will do. The reason rubber bullets and tear gas and pepper spray came along in the first place is specifically because they are less-than-lethal. When you take away the less-than-lethal weapons in a use of force situation, you really are begging for a more violent response, if for no other reason than those are the only weapons available.”

The report is clear that the intention of the two groups is not to eliminate the use of all non-lethal weapons. The report is looking to make sure that the people who use them have a full understanding of what type of damage they can cause. According to the report, when these weapons are deployed against a crowd “they cause confusion and panic, resulting in additional injuries as well as an escalation of violence.”

The weapons that this report says should be banned are the non-lethal projectiles that have militarized. The report also calls for some kind of government oversight for organizations that use these types of weapons.

“The use of any kind of force, including CCWs, must always meet the tests of necessity, proportionality, legality, and accountability. Law enforcement officials must always aim to use the minimum force necessary in any situation. When a decision is made to use force in response to acts of violence, law enforcement officials should not treat crowds as a single violent entity because of the actions of some individuals.”

Do you think that non-lethal weapons are as dangerous as lethal weapons?

[Image Via AP Photo/Charlie Riedel]