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Impact Munitions Use: Types, Targets, Effects

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2004
16 pages
This report presents findings from a study on the circumstances in which less-lethal impact munitions are used by law enforcement officers and their effects on individuals in the field.
Law enforcement officers are often called upon to control large unruly crowds or potentially dangerous individuals. Law enforcement, military, and private industry have worked together to develop less-lethal means and techniques with which to subdue individuals or crowds. The focus of the current study was on impact munitions, which are designed to temporarily incapacitate an individual with less danger of injury or death for both the individual and the officers involved. Researchers gathered data from 106 United States and Canadian law enforcement agencies regarding their use of less-lethal weapons and impact munitions, in particular. Case-by-case information on 373 incidents was gathered concerning where impact munitions were used, how they were used, and their impact on suspects. The findings suggest that impact munitions, when used from a proper firing distance, are useful in resolving potentially violent encounters; more than 90 percent of the incidents studied were resolved without the subsequent use of lethal force. Overall, training in the use of impact munitions was considered key to their effective use. Improvement on impact munitions should further reduce the risk of accident death or injury to suspects and officers. It was also noted that impact munitions should be clearly identifiable from lethal munitions to reduce the chance of officer error. Future research should address deficiencies in the manufacture of impact munitions and in the training for their use.

Date Published: October 1, 2004