Non-Lethal Weapons: The Training Paradox

Donald A. Lund, University of New Hampshire

To view deployment of non-lethal weapons as isolates without considering the context for their use is to ignore a major "paradigm shift that has fostered consideration of the economic and environmental consequences of law enforcement actions. In considering "area denial," for example, through use of "non-lethal" technology in the form of slippery substances, rigid foam or laser barriers, demonstrators can be deprived of access to a locale without risk of pollution or damage to the surrounding neighborhood. Yet, given the magnitude of this paradigm shift, law enforcement proponents of non-lethal weapons call for "brief individual and unit-level training that does not seriously distract units from other training tasks." Complicating this paradox, are requirements for conceptual integration of this technology into "use of force" policies which poses a challenge given the continuing treatment of non-lethals as an "add on" technology. Introduction of non-lethal technology is not simply the deployment of a new weapon but is the introduction of a dramatically different perspective on "use of force" which has complicated definitions of appropriate and reasonably necessary force and measurement of that which is deemed "excessive." As such, the author advocates extensive retraining in lieu of the "brief" training provided by most departments..

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Updated 05/20/2006