Police try new high-tech devices to cut down on deadly force as clashes with protesters continue

Tech

As violent clashes continue between law enforcement and protesters in Portland and around the country, debate is swirling around how police can cut back on lethal force. Some companies are stepping up to offer new high-tech tools like remote handcuffs for police to use instead of the more dangerous options like pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash grenades.

Human rights group Amnesty International analyzed 500 videos from protests from May 26 through June 5 and found 125 incidents of excessive force across 40 states and the District of Columbia.

“We saw a misuse of tear gas, pepper spray, pepper balls, 40 millimeter impact rounds, basically every combination of less-lethal weapon being used in inappropriate ways,” said Amnesty International weapons investigator Brian Castner.

Still, some insist that having options is important for avoiding the need for a firearm. 

“All of these devices should be at hand for the cops to use other than deadly physical force being used by a firearm because it’s the only profession in America where the citizens give you the right to take your life,” said Corey Pegues, former New York Police Department Deputy Inspector.

One of the newest tools is called the Bola Wrap, a handheld device that shoots out an 8-foot Kevlar cord that wraps around a suspect. There are Long Range Acoustic Devices, also known as sound canons, directed energy weapons that use lasers to heat a person’s skin, new projectiles made from things like foam and chalk, stink bombs, and of course the Taser.

Shares of Axon, the company that makes the Taser, spiked more than 18%, reaching all-time highs when protests turned violent days after the police killing of George Floyd. The market for less-lethal weapons is expected to reach $11.85 billion by 2023.

Watch the video to get a look at the new high-tech tools police are using for less-lethal force, how they’re regulated, and what’s at stake for the future of policing and the communities they serve.

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