Author: The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
By Michele Coppola TechBeat Magazine
Shotguns, long a staple of law enforcement departments, can be used to fire less-lethal rounds. When the Corvallis Police Department moved away from everyday use of shotguns in favor of patrol rifles, it decided to repurpose shotguns for use solely as less-lethal weapons.
In 2017, the department repurposed its 12-gauge pump action shotguns for use as less-lethal weapons by fitting them with orange stocks labeled “less-lethal,” and orange fore-ends, according to Lt. Dan Duncan, public information officer for the department.
The department uses a less-lethal shotgun round made of a polymer material that is designed to “pancake,” or flatten on impact. The shells of the ammunition are transparent with an orange band and label for high visibility.
The shotguns are still able to fire standard lethal ammunition. To guard against accidental use of live rounds, the department was careful to remove all standard live shotgun ammunition from the police department building and vehicles.
“We had to go through our department and basically scour every desk and locker and nook and cranny to ensure we did not have any live shotgun ammunition anywhere,” Duncan says. “The shotgun loads and functions the same with less-lethal rounds, which is why we had to be diligent on gathering up the lethal rounds and ensure there was no access to them in the building or patrol cars.
“The less-lethal rounds have a transparent casing and the internal part is orange so they are blatantly marked that they are a less-lethal round, very distinct, which is another safety measure we wanted.”
Located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Corvallis encompasses about 14 square miles. The department has 60 sworn police officers that serve a population of about 57,000.
In patrol vehicles, Corvallis officers carry patrol rifles and their assigned handguns, as well as the less-lethal shotguns. Other less-lethal options used by the department include TASERs and pepper spray.
“The conversion took away a long-standing lethal option that we were not deploying or using and gave us one more less-lethal option when we come into a situation,” Duncan says. “The more tools we can provide of a less-lethal nature to our staff, the better off we are going to be. A Taser or pepper spray may not be an effective tool given a particular scenario. The shotgun with the less-lethal rounds we use can reach up to about 25 yards.”
The department trains officers regularly on use of standard and less-lethal weapons.
For more information, contact Lt. Dan Duncan at Daniel.Duncan@corvallisoregon.gov.