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NIJ Initiative on Less-Than-Lethal Weapons

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1993
5 pages
This paper describes the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) efforts to develop less-than-lethal weapons appropriate for various law enforcement circumstances, with attention to the results of a conference on the development and application of less-than-lethal weapons technology.
In 1987 NIJ began to examine operational requirements for future innovative less-than-lethal devices and examined several new technologies that might be developed for use in law enforcement. Of interest were electrical and electromagnetic technologies, alternative impact devices, drug-delivering dart guns, and knockout gases. There was substantial interest in the potential for developing a chemical dart gun. In 1991 and 1992 NIJ convened meetings of law enforcement professionals and experts to review and assess NIJ's progress with the development of the chemical technology and to consider other methods that could meet law enforcement's expanding need for minimum-force alternatives. Participants were divided into six focus groups to examine the utility and needs for less-than-lethal weapons. Scenarios selected as situations in which less-than-lethal force would most likely be used were fleeing felon/patrol applications, domestic disturbances, barricade/tactical assault, search warrant/raid, and prison/jail disturbance. For patrol applications, an improved chemical mace was considered ideal in many situations. Lasers were favored in "less volatile" hostage situations and barricade encounters, and microwave devices may show promise for major hostage situations, such as airplane hijackings. NIJ is currently conducting a national survey of the use of less-than-lethal devices by law enforcement. NIJ is also examining all less- than-lethal technologies currently under development by Federal agencies. A major research priority of the NIJ in the 1990's will be to continue the development and testing of less-than-lethal devices for use in the criminal justice system. 4 notes

Date Published: January 1, 1993