A new study suggests that less-lethal weapons decrease rates of officer and offender injuries.
In the mid-19th century, police officers in New York and Boston relied on less-lethal weapons, mostly wooden clubs. By the late 1800s, police departments began issuing firearms to officers in response to better-armed criminals. Today, many law enforcement agencies are again stressing the use of less-lethal weapons, but they are using devices that are decidedly more high-tech than their 19th-century counterparts.
Use of force, including less-lethal weaponry, is nothing new to policing, and in any use-of-force incident, injury is a possibility. Researchers have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of arrests involve use of force. A group of researchers led by Geoffrey P. Alpert, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, recently completed an NIJ-funded study of injuries to officers and civilians during use-of-force events. Injury rates to civilians ranged from 17 to 64 percent (depending on the agency reporting) in use-of-force events, while injury rates to officers ranged from 10 to 20 percent. Most injuries involved minor bruises, strains and abrasions. Major injuries included dog bites, punctures, broken bones, internal injuries and gunshot wounds.
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