Ferguson is still trying to figure out (new) ways to handle criminal behavior. And the town’s Assistant Police Chief Al Eickhoff has proposed a new device that when fired is meant to stun or shock its target, but does not kill.
Post-Michael Brown‘s death, who was killed by disconcerting former cop Darren Wilson, Eickhoff was determined to find another way to discipline or control suspects or individuals with a force that was still impactful but just not lethal. Eickhoff went to Google to begin his research to see what would appear under or with the words “less lethal” in its description, and that was how his curiosity found its way to the Alternative.
The Alternative looks like a gun but the device is attached to a “handgun barrel [that] turns a bullet into a projectile.” The “ping-pong” sized projectile is capable of breaking bones, it is not possible of killing. Per The Washington Post: “The difference is that the Alternative is meant for exactly that time when officers decide, often in a split second, that they must shoot someone to protect themselves or others.”
Its first test run will be today at a shooting range with five cops, as city officials will continue to evaluate its significance in lowering fatal casualty rates in Ferguson.
While on paper, the Alternative sounds like progress, these “less lethal” devices are still dangerous tools when in use. Their nearly just as potent as a bullet when shot. Back in November, a pregnant woman in St. Louis lost her left eye when an officer didn’t use a gun at her, but a non-lethal bean bag round that struck her in the face during a dizzying exchange between cops, protestors, and bystanders.
The Alternative also has its downsides for police officers. Although it only takes a few seconds to prepare a pellet gun, some cops and officials argued that having to direct their attention to the device places them at risk of getting hurt or killed by the alleged suspect they are in contact with.
But we’re going to have to wait and see how effective the Alternative will really be along with Ferguson’s other proposed ideas for change, regarding officers and the relationship with civilians, in the year.