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Ferguson Police Begin Testing 'Less Lethal' Gun Attachment

After the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown last year, officers in Ferguson, Missouri, have been looking for alternatives to lethal force.
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Police in Ferguson, Missouri, will begin testing a “less lethal” gun attachment on Thursday that would hurt suspects but not necessarily kill them. If the attachment is formally adopted, Ferguson’s would become the first police department in the country to use the technology, manufactured by Alternative Ballistics of California, NBC affiliate KSDK reported. “It gives you just one more opportunity to neutralize the subject without killing him,” Mayor James Knowles III told the station. “But we also can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be killed.”

The attachment is placed on the barrel of the gun, and when the weapon is fired, the exiting bullet embeds itself into an alloy projectile. That projectile would “send a shock wave of pain through the suspect without the internal damage that a penetrating bullet would cause,” according to Alternative Ballistics.

Critics of the technology say it puts officers’ lives in danger. That’s because the attachment can be used only once, and during an altercation, the officer would be spending valuable seconds deciding whether to use it and affixing it to the service weapon, said former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch. “The thought of actually implementing something like this, I think, would be very dangerous for police officers because these situations happen very quickly and you’d better be ready,” he told KSDK.

Knowles said that the technology would only be used when an officer potentially has to use deadly force — not during civil unrest or protests. Ferguson was the scene of several days of unrest last year after the deadly shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white officer Darren Wilson. The mayor added that police are testing the attachment at a gun range, but it’s still far from being introduced on the streets. “We think it’s worthwhile to explore, but we’re still in the exploratory phase,” he said.



— Erik Ortiz