“Non-lethal” Police Weapons

*****THIS post is in DRAFT form until this note is removed*****

“Congress shall make no law—abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”

Often it seems that our local police are asked to enforce local ordinances, charters etc that politicians have implemented in an attempt to circumvent this very critical piece of our 1st Ammendment.

The 1st Ammendment not only guarantees our right to speak and assemble freely, it REQUIRES our governments not to pass any law that conflicts with that right.

If I want to assemble with likeminded people at noon on Monday or at 4 am on Friday, under the Constitution I am allowed to do so.

Yet, many jurisdictions have passed local laws saying that I cannot.  And then they pay their police to enforce these unconstitutional pieces of crap local ordinances.

We, the people, must tell our federal politicians that we will remove them from office if they fail to do their job and enforce our 1st Ammendment rights.

Lately, with the @OccupyWallStreet encampments having sprung up worldwide we have seen more and more police actions against protestors and hear about use of “Non-lethal” weapons.

What are nonlethal weapons?  What do they include and what kind of damage can they do when used against human beings?

***I am not an expert in police weapons, tactics or the law.  If I get something wrong here, please let me know.  I will research your issue and fix the entry.

Non-lethal weapons are used by police in many situations such as barricaded suspects, riots, protests and demonstrations and (XXX).  In these situations police have a need to either convince someone to give themselves up, cease an activity or vacate an area.

Types of Non-lethal weaponry:

Non-lethal weapons include a significant range of items including various pepper agents that have been around for a long time and some new ones.

  • mace and pepper spray

This video fits a couple of different weapons.  It occured on the campus of the University of California at Davis on November 18th.

First, you see one officer step over the seated protestors and move in front of them.  He then blatently sprays pepper spray directly into the faces of these seated protestors.  They posed no threat to the officers and offered no resistence.  I am shocked the crowd and those sprayed stayed non-violent.  This video disturbs me so…

Also, aside from the mace can, you can see officers carrying what appear to be pepper ball rifles (??)

  • tear gas spray,
  • tear gas canisters and tear gas grenades

Gas that is dispersed or spread using projectiles such as canister or grenades fired from a weapon can cause harm in a number of ways in addition to the harm from the gas itself.

Gas can also be dispersed in a “Fog” often called Pepper Fog  some local jurisdictions do carry pepper fog materials.

Cannisters and grenades can (and do) strike people and cause massive damage including soft tissue wounds, broken bones, concussions, damage to eyes, noses, mouth and genitals.

  • percussion grenades

In the police actions against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in Oakland California most of us have heard about the injuries suffered by American Veteran Scott Olsen who was struck in the head by a tear gas canister.  While he was laying unconscious on the ground a police officer tossed a tear gas grenade right next to Olsen, scaring a gathering crowd away and possibly doing more damage.

Below are a couple of photos of Iraq Veteran, Marine Scott Olsen and a video of Olsen being first struck by the canister and then of the tear gas grenade being tossed directly toward Olsen as he lays injured on the ground.

There was a vigil held in Oakland for Olsen after this attack.  The injuries suffered by this Iraq veteran who it seems posed no real threat to the police on-site the night of the attack (from the Oakland PD, Alameda County Sheriff, Palo Alto Police Department or others) seemed to have re-energized the protestors and certainly increased the donations they collected.

  • batons
  • rubber bullets

Rubber bullets sound so harmless, and as opposed to full-metal jacketed bullets they certainly are.  They are not made to penetrate flesh although they can.  Rubber bullets can do a lot of damage to soft tissue and bones and seriously wound a person if they strike an eye, ear, nose, mouth or genitals.

The first  photo below is a rubber shotgun shell and the bullet or projectile which lives in the shell before it is fired.  Look at the fins which help with the flight of the rubber projectile increasing distance and accuracy.

In the next photo in the we see a shotgun shell used to propel a beanbag round and, in the other hand, is a rubber bullet.

The shotgun shell fires from the weapon and opens at the top allowing the actual projectile(such as a beanbag)  to separate from the shell and project further, just  as pellets in a regular shotgun shell would do.

The next two photos show actual damage to a human being who has been struck with a rubber bullet.  The first is a facial injury and the second is a chest wound.

You can see that these non-lethal weapons can do a lot of damage to a person.

  • bean bags

There are a ton of bean bags weapons out there.  Most are shotgun based and fire 12g bean bags such as this one.

A 12 gauge round that direct fires a 26 gram or 40 gram bean bag projectile. Designed for single target engagement allowing escalation of force from a close distance prior to use of lethal means. ”

Such intruiging naes….the “Power Punch”.  If you felt it slam into your bbody you would definitely feel the punch and wonder if it was actually “non-lethal”.

So where do such nonlethal weapons come from?According to one source many used by the Oakland PD come from the same U.S. based arms company that supplies the Israeli Army:

The police repression on display in Oakland reminded me of tactics I witnessed the Israeli army employ against Palestinian popular struggle demonstrations in occupied West Bank villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin and Bilin. So I was not surprised when I learned that the same company that supplies the Israeli army with teargas rounds and other weapons of mass suppression is selling its dangerous wares to the Oakland police. The company is Defense Technology, a Casper, Wyoming based arms firm that claims to “specialize in less lethal technology” and other “crowd management products.”

Read more of this article HERE

Note:  There is nothing wrong with police departments purchasing these weapons nor with the company manufacturing and selling them.

One article states that of the various agencies on-site during the October 25th siege of the Oakland encampment only the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department allowed their officers to use explosive tear gas canisters.

Read the Fog City Journal article at the link above.

Society will need to decide whether we want to continue to allow our police departments to use such weapons against American civilians whose crime is something like “trespassing” or “violating curfew” or even “failure to follow a police officer’s direct order”.

In my mind, these crimes do not seem significant enough to warrant such weapons being used.

Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen lay bloodied while regaining consciousness after being struck by an unknown projectile during a protest in Oakland on Tuesday. Photo by Jay Finneburgh

Below is Scott Olsen after leaving the hospital November 12th and looking much better.  Olsen was still having trouble speaking when he left the hospital and will require some ongoing therapy for a period of time.

The last item will not seem like a “weapon” to many of you or to the police.  I am talking about a badge that is hidden or covered in some way so that the public cannot identify the officer.

This usually happens in a “riot” gear setting.  The officer puts black electrical tape over the badge or sticks it in his pocket or pulls a pocket flap down over the badge.  It is usually done from a state of fear.  It may seem to us that it is from arrogance, but in truth the officer worries that an uncovered shiny badge marks him as a target.

You most often see this happen at night when a flashlight or a camera light or the headlights of a passing car make that badge just light up.

However, it is against the law for an officer to hide or cover up his identity—his badge with his name and number.

To the public that hidden badge does seem to be a weapon.  We know it is against the law and may even remind the officer.  That rarely changes the behavior.  And we wonder “if he covers his badge, what will he do to me?”  Cops understand it is intimidating even if that is not their primary reason.

The California Penal Code states that uniformed police officers must wear “a badge, nameplate, or other device which bears clearly…the identification number or name of the officer”.

Feel free to remind the police of this when they forget.”

More at the link.

“Congress shall make no law—abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”

“Sound cannons” or  “LRAD” or “Sonic Blasters” are another “non-lethal” weapon developed for military use on the battlefield and now being turned against American citizens on U.S. soil doing nothing but protesting.

Are these protests large crowds?  Are these protests rowdy?  Are the protestors breaking the law?  Yes, sometimes.  But we are talking about protests and protestors.  If (when) foreign governments turn these weapons against their own citizens we would (and do) complain and ask them to stop.

But the products, which the makers developed as nonlethal options for military use, are prompting outcries from people on the receiving end, who call them “sound cannons.” The city of Pittsburgh is fighting an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit claiming the piercing tone from a police blaster during the 2009 G-20 summit permanently damaged a woman’s hearing. At least one Occupy Wall Street protester says New York City police also used the punishing alert tone, although police say they have used the device only to broadcast messages.

LRAD says its products offer police something louder than a megaphone and more benign than rubber bullets and tear gas for managing crowds, defusing hostage situations and serving warrants on dangerous suspects.”  More at the link above.



  1. […] You can read information about non-lethal weapons, their use in the Occupy protests and exportation as well as my thoughts about the weaponry HERE […]

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