Less Than Lethal: Is It a Safer Option?

Less Than Lethal: Is It a Safer Option?

Reagan Farnsworth, Contritbutor

Law enforcement officers are equipped with at least one less than lethal weapon, accompanying their firearm. According to Scott Harris, the three most popular less than lethal weapons are batons, pepper spray, and tasers, which includes stun guns.The difference between stun guns and tasers is that stun guns are used for close proximity, while tasers are used for long-distance takedowns.

On Friday, January 7, 2022 footage was released out of Catskill, New York. A drunk man walked into the Catskill Police Station around 10:30 PM. Jason Jones was in a state of rage and panic when he entered the police station. Three officers were observing the situation unfold, while keeping a close eye on him. For nearly thirty minutes Jones yelled, ripped off clothing, and poured hand sanitizer on himself and the officers were patiently waiting and hoping for this encounter to come to an end. After exiting the building and re-entering Jones took hold of a large container of hand sanitizer and put multiple pumps of it on his bare torso. At this point, the officers took out their stun guns and were negotiating with the suspect to de-escalate the situation. When Jones wouldn’t comply, one of the officers deployed his stun gun on Jones. Within seconds of the stun gun making contact, the suspect  was lit on fire. In the security camera footage you can see the light from the flame reflecting onto the officer’s uniforms as they back away. Jones was on fire for approximately 25 seconds before it was put out. 

It was later released from Police Chief Dave Darling that the officers were familiar with Jones’ history with law enforcement and were being cautious to avoid a more serious situation of him hurting himself or the officers. The suspect spent a prolonged time in the hospital on life support before he died. 

Theoretically this exchange should have not concluded with the death of Jason Jones, however it is a difficult situation. According to the General Use section of the Taser Policy, “[Tasers] will not be deployed at subjects who have come into contact with flammables or in environments where flammables were obviously present.” Hand sanitizer contains ethanol, a high flammable substance, which will ignite when a taser or stun gun comes into contact. Although it was this mistake that caused the suspect’s death, the other option doesn’t seem to prove more effective. The officers were also equipped with a handgun, but in that close range the shots would have also killed Jones. Unfortunately, there are some situations within the law enforcement world that are uncontrollable and end in death. Less lethal weapons are still a very important weapon for officers to carry. 

 

Sources:

https://www.policechiefmagazine.org/prod-feature-less-lethal-weapons/#:~:text=The%20three%20primary%20less%2Dlethal,lethal%20 weapons%20is%20running%20high.               

 

 https://www.safewise.com/best-tasers-stun-guns/#:~:text=Is%20there%20a%20difference%20between,attaches%20to%20targets%20further%20away.                        

 

https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/30099-30102%20Taser%20policy.pdf

 

https://www.police1.com/patrol-video/articles/video-man-doused-in-hand-sanitizer-bursts-into-flames-after-being-tasered-I5WyOPKOuHCXXFHD/

 

https://tidsskriftet.no/en/2021/05/debatt/hand-sanitiser-flammable