Yay! Anther police department command is bowing to (ignorant) public opinion and adding unnecessary equipment to the police arsenal instead of opting for the correct option of better training.
The Bloomington Police Department announced plans Tuesday to equip officers with “less lethal” launchers in hopes of reducing injuries among suspects and officers.
The launchers are modified shotguns that fire bean bag rounds instead of shells. Bloomington police cited recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as a big motivator for launching the new program. The more than 100-page report focuses on improving trust between communities and police in the wake of controversial encounters across the country.
“BPD remains committed to providing a safe environment for all citizens while continuing to implement recommendations outlined in the Final Report so as to strengthen trust and collaboration with the community in which we serve,” the department said in a statement.
The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police Local 86 is pushing to make the Less Lethal Launchers available to more IMPD officers. Right now, only special units like the SWAT team have access to this tool. The FOP made the “call to action” last July after a violent month left several officers shot or injured while on the job.
I’d note that these “less lethal launchers” are nothing more or less than Remington 870 Police Magnum 12-gauge shotguns. The extent of their “modifications” are using a synthetic stock and fore-end which have been dyed red-orange. You can pick up the exact same shotgun (not a “launcher”) and run buckshot or slugs through it all day long.
Let’s take a specific look at the exact “less lethal” technologies they’re talking about in a brief video.
Put in simple terms, they’re equipping officers to “punch” a non-compliant suspect in the gut from 20-30 feet away.
Sadly, Bloomington’s civilian and police leaders are once again falling into a well-known trap of trying to use an inexpensive “thing” to solve a people problem, just as they have with chemical sprays and tasers.
The beanbag rounds, chemical sprays and tasers are all short-range stand-off weapons designed to make a suspect unhappy or uncomfortable in order to convince them to comply. None of them have a track record of working very well on drug abusers or emotionally disturbed people, as we chronicled last month in the failure of multiple “less lethal” devices before the shooting of LSD abuser Luke Smith.
These “less lethal” options are viewed as being a much cheaper, and much more politically-correct, than giving officers the hand-to-hand skills they actually need (but don’t necessarily want) to bring suspects into custody quickly.
What these civilian officials and politically-compromised police brass don’t want to admit is that they’re more worried about the perception of necessary violence, instead of being concerned about the actual welfare of officers, suspects, and citizens.
In an age where everyone has a video camera on their smart phone and security cameras are increasingly ubiquitous, city governments and their law enforcement leaders want to be seen as slowly escalating force over time, giving the suspect every opportunity to surrender on their own.
These “leaders”—and I spit the word—lack the communication skills and an education on the nuances of the proper contextual application of force to explain to the public that in many situations, going “hands on” with a suspect and putting them down hard and fast—taking them into custody in seconds—is far less risky in the long run for the suspects, the officers, and the general public.
There’s no finer example of this failed hardware-focused policing paradigm than a currently circulating video on social media of officers from an unknown department attempting (and failing) to take a suspect into custody without having to go “hands on.”
The officers are dealing with a shirtless man, variously described as an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) or as a man high on drugs. Officers were called because he was being disruptive in a fast food restaurant, as more than a dozen patrons stood around watching, all within striking distance if he produced any sort of a weapon at all.
The officer with the taser follows the suspect around the restaurant like a puppy dog, cycling his clearly ineffective taser time and time again. He’s clearly not in control of the situation, and every part of his body language screams that he’s afraid of a man he easily outweighs by 30-40 pounds.
A second officer rushes in after more than two minutes of this nonsense, and knocks the suspect to the ground. Unbelievably, the two officers, both of whom are much larger men than the suspect, allow the suspect to get up, instead of pinning him to the ground and cuffing him, which would have ended the threat to the suspect’s health, the threat to the officers, and the threat to more than a dozen dim-witted bystanders who don’t have the common sense to leave an out-of-control situation.
They instead fall back on the utterly ineffective taser, cycling it again to no effect, and back away. It’s a complete failure of training and department culture, putting everyone within the camera’s view at great risk.
The suspect then leaves the store and both officers tase him together, and even after the suspect finally collapses from a double taser hit, they refuse to move in and cuff him.
It’s here I’m going to stop, even though the video goes on for several more minutes of heart-wrenching failure that verges on—and I do not use this term lightly—torture.
I’ll note that repeated taser usage like we saw in this video has killed numerous suspects.
I’ll note that officers eventually combined tasers with chemical sprays to attack this suspect, so that his lungs were under attack, along with his central nervous system.
As many emotionally disturbed people and drug abusers are already anything but the paragon of health, every second of “less lethal” contact that drags on here puts the suspect at greater risk.
Eventually, the officers are forced to do what they should have done the moment the second officer knocked the suspect down long minutes before: then went hands on and used brute strength to force the suspect’s arms behind his back and into handcuffs.
It was more than five minutes into this confrontation, with so many citizens around, that they were finally able to check his pockets for blades, needles, or other weapons that he could have easily deployed at any second during this conflict.
I dare you to watch this video, and think of the stresses affecting this man’s body as he is repeatedly, continuously tased, then double-tased, and then pepper sprayed over a series of long minutes.
I dare you to watch this video, and explain to me how every second that this dragged one with a suspect clearly not in his right mind, that there wasn’t an immediate and considerable threat to every officer, mother, and child in that restaurant. Keep in mind: he had not been searched. He could have had dirty needles, or a knife, or even a gun in his pockets.
I dare you to watch this video, and tell me that the most humane and safest option for everyone involved wasn’t the officers going hands on with this suspect, forcing him to the ground, and forcing him instead handcuffs at the earliest possible moment.
That “less lethal launcher” that Bloomington Police Department wants to deploy as their next placebo probably isn’t going to save a single life. It will instead be just another crutch, another excuse to do the easy thing instead of the right thing. It is another failure of a failed “hands off” mindset that puts the lives of officers, suspects, and the general public at risk.
As a culture, we’re forgetting that the tool of violence, while not the appropriate tool in most situations, is precisely the right tool to use in some contexts.
Even further divorced from our realities is the uncomfortable fact that the proper application of the tool of violence in the right context may absolutely be the safest thing for everyone concerned.
We’ve got to get away from this dangerous fetish of substituting gear for knowledge and training and carefully-applied necessary violence.
If we don’t, we’re going to continue to see this misapplication of “less lethal” weapons and furtive interaction get a lot more people killed on both sides of the law.