Let me get my biases out the the way: I utterly abhor the very concept of law enforcement officers having any part of their kit that looks, feels, and is deployed like a handgun, but which isn’t a gun.
We’ve seen too many documented instances of highly-stressed officers grabbing a gun when they thought they were grabbing a taser and shooting suspects they didn’t mean to shoot. We’ve also seen instances where officers were injured or killed because they had a taser or pepper spray in their hands when they should have had a gun.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department is now adopting a four-barrel Russian designed firearm that they’ve been told is non-lethal, and which Sheriff Paul Babeu is apparnetly touting as non-lethal or non-lethal depending on the reporting of the story.
The thing is, the Osa (the Russian name for the system) can not only cause severe wounds, the 18x45T rubber bullet can penetrate the ribs or the skull and do horrific damage, as this Russian account makes painfully clear (PDF).
The Russian suspect who was the recipient of one of these rubber slugs is reportedly in a vegetative state.
I fully understand the political demand to force law enforcement officers to adopt even more gear to an already too-heavy gear belt to make the lives of politicians easier.
Politicians want to be able to say, “Hey, we spent $1,100 on this tool, don’t hold us responsible because ____ happened.”
It’s a (pardon the pun) cop out. It’s political cowardice.
They’re pushing expensive toys instead of having to pay for much more expensive (and much more vital) training with existing impact weapons, chemical sprays, energy weapons (tasers), and firearms, and scenario training on when use each, decisively.
Instead of simplifying a law enforcement officer’s life and enabling them to make simple decisions faster and more effectively, saving both the lives of officers and suspects, gimmicks like the Osa (marketed here as Defenzia PB-4-2) add more complexity, more levels of force, more worry about the correct application of the right level of force, and increases officer response time and the likelihood a police officer or sheriff’s deputy is going to loose those vital tenths of seconds that so often separate the winners and losers in a lethal force situation.
Instead of saving lives, these systems are going to put both more good guys and bad guys in the ground.
No wonder no other law enforcement agency in the country will use them.