Officers get lesson here on ‘less than lethal’ weapon

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2002

Law enforcement officers are finding a better way and a saferweapon to use when apprehending subjects.

Several officers from across Mississippi spent the last two daysat the Lincoln County Multi-Use Building learning to use SageInternational’s Less Than Lethal Launcher.

The six and a half pound weapon has helped officers throughoutthe country by allowing them to subdue subjects by firing a 37millimeter rubber projectile at 90-120 miles per hour, usuallyresulting in dazed violators.

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“The main purpose is to give agencies another tool they can usein the field that’s an alternative to a deadly weapon,” said PatMcGilton of Picayune, one of the instructors of the class, whichwas the first offered in the state.

Most officers carry some type of non-lethal weapon, such aspepper spray or a night stick, but those only assist the officersin “arms length situations,” he explained.

The Less Than Lethal Launcher allows officers to react to asituation from more than 100 yards away with great accuracy.

It is most commonly used in situations dealing with hostages,mentally-ill subjects, subjects under the influence of drugs oralcohol and suicide attempts.

“Some of the concepts and principles have been around since the1920s. There were originally used for breaking up riots, but nowthey can be used for a variety of purposes,” said McGilton, whoretired from the Marine Corps and has been teaching the launcherclass since 1996.

Instructors McGilton and Hal Price of Louisiana showed videotapes and news segments where officers used the launcher to knockdown a mentally-ill man carrying a gun, rather than shoot him.

“There’s no officer I’ve ever talked to who couldn’t think of atleast one instance where it could be used,” said Price.

The launcher became a part of the equipment at Tangipahoa ParishPolice Department, where Price serves, after a need arose when aman with a knife barricaded himself in a room.

He could have been brought out in a safe manner by using thelauncher to shoot a projectile that released a substance similar topepper spray, Price explained.

Since that incident, the launcher has been introduced at severalagencies in Louisiana. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department andthe Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Unit will also be added to themore than 600 agencies nationwide that use the launcher.

“We have ordered one, and we plan on having it on hand in caseof a riot in the jail or if it’s needed on the streets,” saidLincoln County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Officer DustinBairfield, who participated in the training exercises.

The Less Than Lethal class was aimed at training officers tobecome instructors in their departments.

“They will take what they learned and tailor it back into theirown departments, depending on their needs,” explained McGilton.

Agencies represented included Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment, Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Unit, MississippiHighway Patrol, Mississippi Public Service Commission, MadisonPolice Department and Picayune Police Department.

During the class, officers learned how to effectively use thelauncher and how to maintain it. Each participant had to take awritten test on the launcher, pass a shooting qualification andmake a presentation about some aspect of the launcher.