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Police Use of Force: The Impact of Less-Lethal Weapons and Tactics

NCJ Number
Date Published
Philip Bulman
Publication Series
NIJ Journal
This article presents findings from a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded study on injuries to officers and civilians during use-of-force events and the impact of less-lethal weapons and tactics in the reduction of injuries to both officers and civilians.
Today, advances in less-lethal technology offer the promise of more effective control over resistive suspects with fewer injuries. Pepper spray was among the first of these newer, less-lethal weapons to be widely adopted by police forces, and more recently, conducted energy devices (CEDs), such as the Taser. Research, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was conducted by Geoffrey Alpert on the use of force and less-lethal weapons. Data was gathered from three law enforcement agencies, Richland County, SC, Sheriff’s Department, Miami-Dade, FL, and the Seattle, WA, Police Department. In addition a longitudinal analysis was conducted, among 12 local law enforcement agencies, including the above, as well as interviews with officers and suspects involved in use-of-force incidents. To see if the introduction of CEDs was associated with changes in injury rates in police departments. The deployment of pepper spray and CEDs are clearly at an advantage with both weapons preventing or minimizing the physical struggles that are likely to occur between officers and suspects. Further research is recommended to determine whether officers can become too reliant on CEDs and to study in-custody deaths involving CED use. 6 notes
Date Created: March 3, 2011