The Ferguson police department is reportedly on the verge of testing out a “less lethal” gun whose first shot is designed to incapacitate but not kill. However, even that effort is being challenged by law enforcement advocates who claim that such a device would put officers at more risk.
It is a sign of how skewed the national conversation has gotten in favor of law enforcement and lethal force that a device which is intended to possibly save the lives of civilians is attacked because it might somehow endanger police.
The device, called “the Alternative,” is a bright-orange attachment that sits on top of the pistol and positions a ball-shaped projectile over the barrel of the weapon. So when the first bullet is fired, it melds with the ball projectile to create a “less lethal” round designed to incapacitate a target but not pierce the skin. After the first round is fired, the gun then shoots normal bullets.
To work effectively, officers would have to have the attachment on their person, then place it over the gun when they draw their weapon in preparation to use it.
Using the device in Ferguson was the brainchild of assistant police chief Al Eickhoff, according to The Washington Post, which reported that five Ferguson officers would be trained to use the device this week.
“It gives another option,” Eickhoff, who has tested the device personally, told the paper. “I really liked it … You are always looking to save a life, not take a life.”
The device, whose use still must be approved by Ferguson city officials, costs $45 each and apparently is not yet being used by any police department in the country.
“Hopefully we can get it on the streets soon,” Eickhoff told the Post. “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.”
Asked whether it would have saved the life of Michael Brown, who was hit seven times by bullets fired by Wilson, Eickhoff said, “You could still shoot him with this round, and he could still get up and come at you”—continuing with the troubling depiction of Brown that has been projected in the mainstream media as some superhuman beast who could keep charging even after being hit by a fusillade of bullets, thus justifying the need for the fusillade.
Law enforcement advocates attacked the device as being dangerous to officers.
“We know that when we pull and use our firearms, it’s of great likelihood that someone is going to die. Now we’re talking about a device that you attach to the front of a gun to use for ‘less lethal force’,” Major Neill Franklin, a 34-year police veteran and former commander of the training division of Baltimore city police, told the Guardian. “We should not commingle lethal force with less lethal force. It becomes confusing and very problematic.”
Franklin, now the executive director of the advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, continued: “It’s only one shot. We don’t train to shoot once like that, most police agencies train to shoot two shots very quickly because a lot of times the first shot may be off target.”
Indeed, Glenn Rogers, a former police officer and undercover detective for several municipalities in St. Louis County, told Atlanta Blackstar that most cops aren’t very good shots.