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Impact Munitions Data Base of Use and Effects

NCJ Number
Date Published
25 pages
This study obtained data about the use and effects of impact munitions (rubber bullets, wooden dowels, bean bags, etc.) in order to inform both the policymakers who must decide whether and how to integrate impact munitions into their agencies' use-of-force options and the line officers who might use them in the field.
A survey was conducted of North American law enforcement agencies that included impact munitions in their weapons inventory. The agencies were asked to report on each case in which members of the agency fired impact munitions at citizens from the time when the department began using such weapons. A total of 106 law enforcement agencies reported on 373 case reports in which impact munitions were used by an officer. The earliest incident reported occurred in 1985; 4 others occurred in the latter years of the 1980's; 56 others were in the first 5 years of the 1990's; and the remaining 312 cases occurred between 1995 and early 2000. Seventy percent of the cases occurred in the Western region of the United States, 9 percent in the South, 5 percent in the Midwest, 4 percent in the Northeast, and the remaining 12 percent in Canada. The largest category of incidents in which impact munitions were used involved encounters with armed emotionally disturbed persons who exhibited signs of suicidal intent (n=181). Seventy other cases involved armed individuals in public places who refused to comply with officers' orders to surrender, but did not appear to be suicidal. In 48 other cases, officers fired impact projectiles at nonsuicidal subjects who had barricaded themselves inside buildings or vehicles. Among the 19 remaining cases were 9 hostage incidents, 2 civil disturbances, and an assortment of various other types of situations. Conclusions from this study are that impact munitions are safe as measured against the likelihood of fatal injury; they are effective as measured by the standard of resolving high-risk encounters without using deadly force; training in the proper use of impact munitions is critical; impact munitions should be clearly identifiable; they can save lives; and law enforcement agencies should be more active in collecting detailed and accurate information that relates to the deployment of newer types of use-of-force tools such as impact munitions. 6 tables, 5 illustrations, and 6 references

Date Published: January 1, 2002