A statistical assessment during an 18-month period revealed that 50 percent of the applications deviated from the primary belly button aimpoint (mostly appendages and back) without adverse outcome. The reasons for aimpoint deviation were as diverse as the scenarios, but 82 percent of the suspects were dissuaded from their unlawful actions without serious injury by use of the LAPD 12-gauge beanbag. Individuals not deterred by the beanbags were invariably under the influence of narcotics or extreme antisocial behavior and were ultimately subdued by physical force. The beanbags leave a surface abrasion that is influenced by layers of protective clothing and adipose tissue. Beanbags and other kinetic impact projectiles are designed to inflict pain and bruising without permanent injury. An acceptable amount of minor injury is expected with the use of any impact device, according "Less Lethal Injury Assessment" by W. Bozeman at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Less Lethal Forum in September 2005, and the LAPD 12-gauge beanbag is no exception.
The LAPD beanbag platform is capable of controlling combative subjects without causing serious injury and without compromising officer safety. It offers the most flexible deployment, accommodating almost all situations where a less-lethal response is appropriate and has proven to be more effective in safely controlling aggressive or combative persons. The LAPD anticipates a reduction in lethal force incidents as a result of officers using the beanbag shotgun as a close-quarters tactical tool.
Flexibility is key to tactical success during field operations. While the new beanbag platform is not a replacement for lethal force, it may be used during tactical operations in conjunction with lethal force options. For example, officers in the field are using this platform as a secondary force tool during building entries when backed up by lethal force weapons. Additionally, specialized tactical units within the LAPD now deploy the new beanbag platform during tactical operations to provide additional flexibility in force options.
The effectiveness of the beanbag applied at deployment standoff distances that overlap the use of both chemical agents and conducted energy devices makes this one of the most valuable tactical assets in the less-lethal arsenal of law enforcement.
Doreen Hudson is in charge of the LAPD Firearms Analysis Unit, Scientific Investigation Division. Capt. Richard Webb is the commanding officer of the LAPD Use of Force Review Division. Hudson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Webb can be reached at email@example.com.