Tags: Ferguson | alternative | deadly force | officers

Ferguson Police Officers Test 'Alternative' to Deadly Force

By    |   Thursday, 05 February 2015 02:31 PM

Police officers in Ferguson, Mo., are testing a device that muffles the effects of a fired bullet so that it delivers enough force to knock a person down, but not kill the suspect.

After Officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown last summer, the city's assistant police chief, Al Eickhoff, went online to find alternatives for lethal force that could have prevented Brown's death, reports The Washington Post, and discovered videos and a website for a device called the "Alternative."

Story continues below video.

The bright orange device attaches in seconds  to the barrel of a handgun, and when a bullet is fired, it combines with a ping-pong-sized ball, so that the bullet loses its fatal force, even when fired at close range.

Five officers from Ferguson are training to use the device this week, reports the Post, and eventually, the department will introduce it to its entire force.

The Ferguson police department is the only place now training with the Alternative, which costs $45 per unit.

"Hopefully we can get it on the streets soon," Eickhoff said. "Is it going to work every time? Probably not . . . it’s not a catch-all. Every situation is different. But it gives an officer, if time allows — and that’s important, if time allows — a chance to save a life instead of taking a life."

Eickhoff said he did not know if the device could have saved Brown, as it took more than one shot to kill the teenager.

"You could still shoot him with this round," the assistant police chief said, "and he could still get up and come at you."

The Alternative has both its fans and critics. Unlike Tasers or other weapons, the Alternative is only used when officers decide that they must shoot someone, and that means officers must take the time to put the device on their weapons, at a time when seconds count.

Doing that "exposes police officers to greater risk" and "turns policy on its head," Steve Ijames, a former Springfield, Mo., police major and training expert, told the Post.

"I am all about less lethal," he continued. "What bothers me is we will allow an officer to face immediate deadly jeopardy with a less-lethal round. Deadly force is the most likely thing to repel deadly force."

Alternative Ballistics  CEO Christian Ellis said he started his company near San Diego to perfect the device, which was developed several years ago by a retired sheriff's officer.

"Ask a police officer what are the options when lethal force is justified, and he’ll say, 'I have my gun and my bullets,'" said Ellis, 32, who recently began marketing the Alternative after he bought its patent. Ellis describes the device as "an air bag for a bullet."

Ellis said the device contains bullets and sends "a shock wave of pain through the suspect."

It is effective up to 30 feet and will incapacitate a prisoner but rarely breaks the skin.

However, Ellis pointed out that the device has only been tested on materials, and no humans have ever been shot with it. Further, it catches just the first fired bullet, and after that, other bullets are lethal.

Chuck Wexler, of the Police Executive Research Forum, said he was not familiar with the Alternative, but other less-lethal devices, including the Taser, can still cause injury or death.

"The problem is when the technology gets too far out and advanced and there are no policies or guidelines," said Wexler.

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Police officers in Ferguson, Mo., are testing a device that muffles the effects of a fired bullet so that it delivers enough force to knock a person down, but not kill the suspect.
Ferguson, alternative, deadly force, officers
Thursday, 05 February 2015 02:31 PM
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