Analyzing Less Lethal Options

As the technology behind less lethal weaponry improves, campus safety professionals are faced with a growing number of options to consider. In this Campus Safety exclusive, the Florida Gulf Coast University Weapons and Equipment Research Institute shares its unbiased, independent evaluations of less lethal weapons.

Late one night, campus safety officers respond to an emergency call involving a disturbance at a parking lot. When the officers arrive, they find a large, intoxicated male standing in the lot brandishing a baseball bat. As officers approach, the subject threatens them and raises the bat in a threatening manner.

On a different day, officers are called to a union demonstration in front of a hospital administration building where 100 people — including employees of the hospital — are gathered. Most of the participants are peaceful and not posing a problem. As the officers approach, however, a group of subjects begin throwing bottles through building windows, and the group of protestors becomes increasingly agitated.

These scenarios illustrate two very different types of problems that may require law enforcement intervention. The type of action they can take is dictated by myriad administrative, constitutional and legal factors. In a campus law enforcement environment, the action most often taken is one where less lethal force is used.

In the first scenario, without less lethal weapons, it is unlikely officers would have been able to disarm the individual without exposing themselves to significant risk of injury or being forced to escalate to a deadly force option. In the second scenario, if the officers attempted traditional arrest techniques on the offending protestors, it is likely other protestors would intervene and the situation could escalate to a full-scale riot.

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