Ferguson Police Adopts "Less Lethal" Device That Could Lead To Accidental Shootings

I’ve previously ripped into the Alternative Ballistics less-lethal device marketed as “the Alternative,” derisively referring to it as “the clown nose.”


One of the first police departments issuing the device is the embattled police department of Ferguson, Missouri, where two officers were shot during a protest earlier this week.

Based upon my handgun training at Gunsite Academy from law enforcement and military experts, I feel that the adoption of “The Alternative” is incredibly dangerous, and will likely increase the risk “accidental” shootings of suspects because of how police officers are trained.

Handgun bullets are notoriously under-powered. Law enforcement, military, and civilian firearms trainers alike agree (nearly universally) that when someone is forced to fire a handgun in self-defense that they should fire at least two shots initially before scanning and reassessing the threat.  “The Alternative” goes against every bit of range training officers have even encountered, and creates a situation where the better trained the officer is in the use of a handgun, the more likely he or she is to default to their handgun training under stress, and then fire multiple rounds.

We’re apparently not alone in our assessment.

The National Institute of Justice, Technologies Working Group has also come out with a scathing indictment (PDF) of the device, which has been sent out to law enforcement administrators nationwide (our emphasis below):


It has recently come to the less lethal TWG’s attention that The Alternative is being considered by the Ferguson (Missouri) Police Department, and perhaps others. This coalition of subject matter experts wish to speak against the application of this device as it is dangerous to deploy. One of the comments from Mr. Christian Ellis, President of Alternative Ballistics, is one of many misdirected information items being posted by the media. He states that he has never met an officer who didn’t love the device after they shot it. But merely looking at various social media networks (e.g. FaceBook ; PoliceOne.Com) one finds hundreds of negative remarks and comments from police officers and citizens who recognize the ridiculous claims and dangerous properties of this device.

The TWG members collaborated via electronic discussion boards to formulate a response to current media information regarding this device. There is complete agreement by TWG members that The Alternative is a device that will place police and citizens in grave and certain danger, and it is our recommendation it be carefully considered and rejected by law enforcement and corrections agencies.

The current evaluation of this device by some is clouded by political pressure from high visibility officer- involved shooting incidents. This device should not be a knee-jerk reaction to public criticism and should never be put into service.


The Ferguson Police Department is under tremendous pressure to show “change” in the face of a continuous media onslaught that followed in the false initial reports surrounding the death of strong-arm robbery suspect and attempted cop-killer Michael Brown.

Forcing officers to deploy a dangerous and unproven technology like “The Alternative” is only going to create the possibility of using lethal force accidentally, potentially triggering more riots in a community already divided and torn.

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