Beanbag Shotguns Provide Less Lethal Option for Police

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All Naperville Police Department squad cars now carry a “less lethal shotgun.” This gives officers more de-escalation options.

Less lethal is an option for us where in the past the police officer would only have the option of a deadly force response in a situation,” said NPD Training Officer Shaun Ferguson. “Where now there are things we can do to subdue a subject to gain control and then maybe it not necessarily lead to deadly force or force that can create death or great bodily harm.”

Instead of a traditional shotgun round, the gun is loaded with small bags filled with shot. The tails trailing the bag lend more accuracy.

The idea is to take the target down without completely incapacitating them, similar to a baton or Taser. To do that, the officer aims for the legs.

“If you were to hit somebody with one of these, it’s really like a blunt force trauma to the leg,” said NPD Training Officer Michael McLean. “It’s much like being hit with a puck or hit by a baseball. When you see pitchers, guys get hit in the leg and they crumble right away when they get hit, it’s kind of that same effect.”

While the NPD has had beanbag shotguns for about ten years, they were previously only available in sergeant’s vehicles. Keeping them in every squad car gives more officers the option to utilize the weapon.

“We try to bring it out as a [second] resort, it’s not the first thing an officer’s going to grab on scene. The officer needs to do what he needs to do to protect himself or herself,” said Ferguson. “We like to obviously de-escalate through crisis intervention, connect with the subject on a different level. And it’s brought out when we’ve got the right tools in place to make sure it can be effective.”

Police department protocol requires two officers to be present when the less lethal shotgun is loaded, to ensure that traditional shotgun rounds are not used.

And so far, the beanbag shotgun has been a success.

“We had one incident real recently that we used it on a suicidal subject wielding a knife and that [had] positive results,” said McLean. “We had one round go off and the person gave up so it worked out well.”

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.