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Officers often turn to less lethal use of force

Law enforcement officers lean toward using less-lethal or non-lethal weapons when confronting someone who is not cooperative, a trainer said Tuesday.

“We try to give our officers a framework to decide,” said Adam Duncan, the lead trainer for North Star Training Group.

Boone County deputies relied on one of these tactics Monday when they used a shotgun beanbag to subdue a suspect who said he had an explosive at Midway Travel Plaza.

Duncan said there are three levels he teaches officers to use before resorting to deadly force: verbal de-escalation, or using words to slow down or stop a person; empty hand techniques; and tools, or intermediate weapons.

There are also three types of intermediate weapons:

Electronic controlled weapons, such as tasers Impact weapons, such as batons, beanbag rounds and rubber bullets Chemical-based weapons, such as pepper spray

“Each of those has a potential for injury, and each of them have an envelope wherein they would be most appropriate depending on how that person is exhibiting their behavior and the officer’s assessment of ‘what’s going to happen if I don’t get control?'” Duncan said.

In mid-Missouri the most common type weapons officers have available to use are stun guns, pepper spray and impact weapons, Duncan said. Often, lethal weapons are reserved for potentially dangerous one-on-one situations or with a group of officers, when an impact weapon does not work.

According to the 2017 Internal Affairs Report released by the Columbia Police Department, officers were met with resistance 319 times. Officers used a Taser 57 times and used pepper spray 18 times.

Duncan said less-lethal or non-lethal weapons are “designed to interrupt that person’s thought process and impair their ability to continue escalating the situation.”

Despite this, Duncan said officers have to decide when use of lethal force is necessary. He said the most important person in a situation is the hostage, if there is one. The final person on the list is the suspect.

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