Via Scott at Spartan Cops, I came across a study on less lethal weapons and use of force titled “Less Lethal Weapon Effectiveness, Use of Force, and Suspect & Officer Injuries: A Five-Year Analysis” by Charlie Mesloh, Mark Henych and Ross Wolf.
While the use of force (UOF) by Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) is different from UOF by citizens in terms of goals, there are also a lot of similarities. This document is well worth reading to gain further understanding of UOF issues, particularly regarding less lethal weapons. I will point out a few items from Scott’s post that are relevant to the ongoing Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) discussion here at Brillianter.
The ability to end a confrontation between officers and suspects is the measure of the effectiveness of a force level or weapon. This report lists the success rate of weapons and control techniques that were attempted at the beginning of a confrontation:
Taser – 69%
Police K9 – 69%
Chemical agents – 65%
Impact Weapons – 45%
Takedowns – 41%
Compliance Holds – 16%
The authors point out that previous research looks at the highest levels of suspect resistance and police force as the only factor of a confrontation. This study looks at the whole event and examines each point where officers used force to overcome the suspect’s resistance. It then studies the cumulative effect of all those points and finds that both officers and suspects are more likely to sustain injuries the longer the confrontations go on.
As Mostly Genius has mentioned, stopping a confrontation in its earliest stages can be critical in avoiding serious injury or death.
The authors coin a term, “force deficit”, which describes when officers consistently use less force than may be justifiable or necessary to subdue the suspect and end the confrontation. A force deficit causes the incident to drag out longer and raise the cumulative amount of force used. They point out that decisive force early on appears to be the solution and reduces the likelihood of additional injuries caused by the subsequent applications of force.
Using the appropriate amount of force at the earliest stages not only resolves the confrontation quickly and therefore reduces injuries on both sides, but also shields the defender from legal liability for inappropriate (excessive) use of force. As mentioned previously, the lack of alternatives to deadly force can create a situation where someone can be seriously injured or killed simply because the defender doesn’t know what else to do. Ideally, we want to avoid having to kill anyone.
The authors recommend that officers should be prepared to use decisive force when verbal techniques of de-escalation fail. When a suspect engages in active physical resistance, the authors show that immediately using a TASER, Police K9, or chemical agent is the most reasonable method to quickly end the confrontation.
A few bloggers have stated that they have been sprayed with OC and were less than impressed with the results. I also have been sprayed and sprayed others. I have seen the gamut of reactions exhibited by people who have been sprayed, ranging from panic to indifference. Basically, I have a good idea of what to expect when I spray someone, and I think it is worth carrying.
Some things to keep in mind when using OC is that it is a very low level of force, less force than grabbing or punching someone. Also, the element of surprise is a significant factor in making it effective. Warning someone before you spray them allows them to prepare themselves both physically and psychologically. Resolute, goal oriented people, whether they are protesters passively resisting police, law enforcement or military personnel completing a training event or aggressive assailants firmly intent on committing acts of violence will not be effected by OC the same way a less committed aggressor will be. This does not mean it is worthless.
Those people who dismiss OC as worthless for self defense are missing a valuable capability. The overwhelming majority of confrontations in your lifetime will not be deadly force encounters. Carrying a firearm for defense is certainly useful, and when deadly force is called for, OC is clearly not appropriate. This is not an either/or decision, since they are on opposite sides of the force continuum and are not a substitute for each other. OC is not a deadly force tool, and a firearm obviously cannot be considered less lethal. In between these two ends of the continuum, there are numerous other force options, but deadly force, which so many people seem obsessed with, is only justifiable under a very specific set of circumstances, extreme situations where all other means of defense have failed or cannot reasonably be employed. Contrast this with OC, which can be employed quite freely with little worry about liability. Determining what type of situation you are facing and choosing the appropriate course of action (OODA loop) is a matter of experience and training.
There are also some people who recommend martial arts or less lethal techniques only, as a catch all solution to all confrontations; they are also wrong. Martial arts, combatives, defensive tactics or whatever you want to call them are certainly a valuable component of a well prepared person’s self defense plan, but they fall somewhere on the lower side of the middle in terms of the force continuum. They are valuable techniques and like OC, they are more broadly useful than deadly force options like knives and firearms, but they don’t replace them, either. All of these methods have an appropriate place and they are generally poor substitutes for one another.
Some people complain that carrying all these tools and learning all these techniques is a burden. Presumably, they would rather carry only handguns and knives and call it a day. They have very good and redundant deadly force capability, but ignoring the remaining five or six levels of the force continuum does not actually prepare someone for most defensive situations.
I was having a discussion the other day with Mostly Genius regarding the controversial statements made by Brian Stratton, the Mayor of Schenectady, New York, and that led to a more general discussion of how to fix a lot of the problems regarding law enforcement in the US today. The solutions proposed by the Mayor are misguided, but in any case, they are intended only as temporary measures until they can terminate the problem officers and hire new ones. They would not make any fundamental changes to how they operate.
Other options might include outsourcing policing to private companies. Private contractors could easily fill the gaps or even replace the entire department. Some gated communities already have what amounts to a private police force, but this only works because the community is actually private property and their “police” are technically security guards. There are numerous reasons why privatizing law enforcement duties would not be a wildly popular option, one of which, as MG pointed out, is that there would be problems with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
My proposal is hardly original or new but I think it could help address several problems simultaneously. I suggest rejuvenating the office of Sheriff and revive the idea of deputizing responsible, capable citizens under Posse Comitatus. This would be the ultimate form of “community policing”. It would encourage active participation in the community, not only for deterring regular street crime, but also in an emergency like an active shooter situation or in a civil defense (natural disaster, nuclear attack, etc.) context as well. The office of Sheriff is an ancient one that predates modern policing and has many advantages. In the United States, it is an elected office, which adds to its appeal as far as accountability to the community.
I envision it as something like a vetted, trained neighborhood watch program on steroids, supervised and trained by the local Sheriff’s Office. It could organized in a similar fashion to the military reserves:
- an initial training program
- a small number of full time cadre
- a much larger number of part-time, on-call members
- mandatory monthly duty and continuing education/refresher training
- a comprehensive annual training seminar
- the duty (and vested interest) to respond to emergencies
This program could work really well when you consider that in any given community, there are often retired or discharged people with law enforcement, firefighter/paramedic and/or military backgrounds that already have a lot of relevant training and experience. This could create a much larger pool of people to call on in the event that an officer is sick, injured, suspended, terminated, killed in the line of duty, etc. Some of the part timers may have relevant areas of expertise and could be a great help in training academies or seminars and so forth.
In the event of an unusual emergency that is beyond the capabilities of a small number of full time deputies (active shooter, escaped convict, search and rescue, AMBER Alert, etc) a large group of trained volunteers could be quickly mobilized to address the problem. When the problem is resolved, the volunteers go back to their normal lives. This is not only more economical and more responsive to specific problems, but it also builds a sense of camaraderie and reinforces bonds of community.
The overall goals of such a program would be to reduce the burden on law enforcement, make it more accountable and encourage the citizenry to take an active interest in the safety of their own communities instead of abrogating those responsibilities to some faceless agency.
Even Barack Obama recognizes the need for a different approach:
“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.”
While I am not sure it would be a “… just as strong, just as well funded” as the military, it could be a significant improvement over the current situation in several ways. I don’t believe that merely throwing money at a problem leads to successful solutions. This idea would not require a lot of money to implement, to the contrary, I think it would make maximum use of already existing resources.
There are indications that Americans would embrace a program like this. People are already doing citizen patrols.
Against his wife’s loud protestations, the young steamfitter joined a dozen other neighborhood men and set up the Rosewood night patrol.
Armed with nothing but flashlights and cellphones, the group followed suspicious cars and even set up an impromptu sting when a neighbor left town and forgot to close his garage door. They called in police to arrest the suspects after a brief chase.
High foreclosure rates, a spike in brazen break-ins, and slashed police budgets are causing turmoil in America’s transitioning urban communities, auguring what Atlanta anticrime activist Larry Ely calls an “urban war.”
Why not organize, train and deputize them? No doubt many people, who are quite comfortable with the idea of an almighty state and a dependent, helpless citizenry squealing for the federal government to “do something!”, will decry this idea as promoting “vigilante” justice. I am sure they will invoke the images of Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County Wars and the Lattimer Massacre. I would counter by pointing out that significant numbers of innocent people are already being killed by allegedly professional SWAT teams. Many people made dire predictions of rampant duels and blood running in the streets if concealed weapons permits became commonplace and that has proven to be completely inaccurate.
Obviously, there could be nepotism, corruption and incompetence in a program like this, but I don’t think that those problems would be any worse than in any currently existing situations, and actually, they would probably be less frequent. Widespread, active citizen involvement in the program makes it more likely that a whistleblower could draw attention to problems within the office. Also, I think that active involvement by local citizens makes it less likely that deputies will kick down the wrong door when serving a warrant, unlike what we see today with SWAT teams frequently raiding the wrong home (and often killing innocent people in the process). After all, many of them could be your friends and neighbors.
(HT: Walls of the City )
The article doesn’t explain how the police chief is going to go about accomplishing this, and I am sure the devil is in the details:
“It’s going to take a whole lot of people to help us do that,” said Demings, who pledged to work closely with the public, prosecutors and legislators for stricter gun control.
“It’s not about keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens who have every right to possess them,” she said. “Our initiative will focus on the people who are not supposed to have them.”
The most interesting bit of the article is here:
Data released Wednesday show the male murder victims and suspects share a common background of repeated arrests without imprisonment.
At least 95 percent of the victims and suspects had criminal histories. One-third of the suspects had been arrested at least 20 times. One quarter of the victims had been arrested at least 10 times. And about 40 percent of the suspects and victims had been busted for dealing drugs.
If 95% of the people getting murdered are actually criminals then taking guns away from them has a very good chance of increasing other types of crime. The sample size is pretty small here, but it would be interesting to know how many people killed by firearms (other than suicides) are in fact criminals.