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Non- Lethal Weapons: Tools or Torture
~ Dawn Gibson
The police and military, over the centuries have used
weapons, to subdue suspects, rioters, and protesters,
in order to gain control. Some people question the
use of certain weapons, feeling they are used excessively.
The new technologies come up with new tools used to
stop these parties, with hopes to lessen injuries and death, which occur, sometimes on both sides. This paper will talk about different weapons, the use they were intended for and the excessive or abusive uses. It is hoped in time for both parties to come to a mutual agreement, with less causalities, however, this cannot always be the cases. There are those who abuse their positions and enjoy the torment they cause, while others are horrified these weapons are allowed and can actually cause severe harm and in some cases death, for “non-lethal” weapons.
Non- Lethal Weapons: Tools or Torture
The police force and military have often used force to stop suspects, rioters, and protestors when they feel it may become a dangerous situation for both sides. These types of weapons have changed over the years with the idea they are less lethal. They are however, if used improperly very dangerous and even deadly for those they are used on. Researching history we see this has changed much like the jails and prisons, but still needs to be readjusted. If these are truly non-lethal weapons, they should not cause death. If these cause death then new policies on how they are used needs to be created and those in charge need to train those using these weapons the proper use, as well as hold them accountable for “accidental” deaths.
History of non-lethal weapons
The history of non-lethal weapons would include guns. Guns were originally used to hunt with, but were very effective when stopping those suspected of criminal activity. When used right the suspect should stop rather than be shot. Then the abuse came as people used them to murder others, through the revolutionary war, Indian wars, and the famed civil war, which was a long brutal and deadly war. These are the first examples of abusing non- lethal weapons intended from hunting and protection from wild animals. Dogs were introduced to track and find escapees, or criminals, this too was abused. Dogs are family pets and man best friend but when forced can wound and even kill. These dogs were used on defenseless women and children during the Native American removals. These are examples of non-lethal weapons used and then abused.
In 1981 Taser and chemical irritant spray (mace) were adopted by the LAPD. They had also stared using pepper spray and bean bag shotguns. These weapons use and when hitting certain parts caused bodily harm, injuries and even death. Pepper spray cause mild to permeate blindness, bean bags could break or tear skin or even break bones if too close (Meyer, 2006).
The military and police are supposed to protect their citizens against all harm, but sometimes they may be the cause of harm, especially when corruption comes to play. There have been times when aggression and excessive force has been used against people who are protesting peacefully. When this happens riots break out to protest this kind of abuse, and many times both sides are injured and perhaps killed. New weapons were created as it was easy to shoot and kill. These weapons like the previous mention were to be used in certain ways, if untrained they can become deadly. When military, police and sometimes protesters panic, mistakes happen. We would like to think the majority are mistakes, and pray death does not occur. If the crowd comes to close the law enforcement may be in circumstances where it may be dangerous for them. The newer weapons were meant to make this happen less and keep a safe distance. However, money and power come into play at times. The idea is to keep protesters and agitated rioters from coming too close and these weapons are meant to slow, stop, or turn protesters away (Newcombe, 2015).
Older non-lethal weapons
Some weapons that are still used but have changed are dogs to attack and subdue suspects, rioters, or protesters. Gases, batons, and pepper spray used during the Civil Right and Anti-war movements. These keep some protesters back, but many would push on back and cause harm to the law enforcement in protest of these weapons. Since these weapons were not as effective new one were created. It was the hope that these weapons used would be non- lethal and effective. These weapons were used in war by the military and adopted by the law enforcement. Rubber Bullets, concussion grenades, mace, and water cannons, were newly developed weapons. They when used wrong would cause bodily harm and in some incidents death. Dakwar writes that these were lethal while they were used in wars like Afghanistan. The water canon had such force it could cause injuries and even death, the same with rubber bullets which when used they hit certain parts of the body cause harm and death. The eyes, throat, chest are most vulnerable (Dakwar, 2016).
Newer “Non-lethal” weapons
The newer “non-lethal” weapons used are water blasters, water cannons, sonic waves, bean bags, blunt projectiles, peeper balls, the alternative, and the xred (Hager, 2015). The use of invisible pain rays and assault intervention systems were and are being used on prisoners. The jail officer is in charge; give this punishment via the “joystick”. They also use microwave energy blasters, blinding laser beams, chemical agents, and deafening sonic blasters. These are used on unarmed people. They were used to clear streets, control crowds, to subdue and restraint individuals and to secure the borders. These weapons were used much like the old version of batons, pepper spray and tear gas on the general public population (Khalik, 2011).
The United States is the front runner of these times of weapons for international arms development. The example of excessive force is happening now for the last 6 months or more, Standing Rock have had to deal with aggressive forces.; The DAPL which is considered “The Black Snake” by Native Americans. The water protectors are protesting that the pipeline will leak and cause pollution to their main source of water. While many stand behind these water protectors many laws are broken. The treaty of 1851 stated that these lands are unsucceeded territory and belong to the Dakota Americans, via the 1951 Laramie treaty. The pipe line claims they have bought the lands from a local rancher. They said they can and will remove them off their lands (the Dakota and Lakota lands). The journalist state that they have been beaten with batons, pepper sprayed, and stripped search along with the native protestors. They have also had their equipment taken from them. Amnesty International’s Identity and disconcert unit stated that the dog handlers were not legally license in the state of Dakota to do security work (carpenter, 2016). The policing done to the water protectors have had water blasters used, which cause broken limbs, water cannons which cause hypothermia and frostbite, as well as sonic blasters. These are peaceful protesters many in which were attacked while praying (Levin, 2017). The Morton County Police claimed the water protectors were rioting and blames them for fires started. The fires were bonfires to keep them warm and were contained, however tear gas and pellets caused some fires as they hit the ground intended for the protesters. The protesters were being targeted after trying to removed burnt out vehicles places by a bridge used for emergencies to help the injured parties. The emergency vehicles had to make an extended route causing them to go 30 miles out of the way. Medical professional demanded that the aggressive forces stop using water cannons which was causing hypothermia and frost bite Barajas, 2016). ACLU were also protesting the aggressive actions of the Morton County Police. While they used water cannons it was -3 degrees. The peaceful protesters suffered injuries such as seizures, loos of consciousness, and some elderly suffered cardiac arrest due to the conditions and stress. 300 were injured, 26 hospitalized and several protesters were arrested, and strip searched (Dakwar, 2016).
Creating a new policy
Creating a new policy should be done as soon as possible. On our own soil we should not be attacking innocent people. Peaceful protesting is a right we all share, as well as the freedom of speech. The treaties that our great nation made, should be held accountable, for if we do not stand by our treaties, than who can trust the United States on any topic , agreement , or policy? This sent a precedence to show that America talks but does not follow the walk. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. These weapons that are being used on peaceful protesters should come with accountability, either they train those in charge to use them properly, or do not use them, There are different levels of danger, peaceful protesting is not one of them. These weapons should rather be used on dangerous fugitives but in the correct way. The use of force should never be head shots or any body part in which it can become deadly. Training must be mandatory and excessive force should be penalized.
Barajas, J. (2016). Police deploy water hoses, tear gas against Standing Rock protesters. PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/police-deploy-water-hoses-tear-gas-against-standing-rock-protesters/
Carpenter, Z. (2016). Cracking down o Dakota access pipeline protesters. The nation. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/militarized-police-are-cracking-down-on-dakota-access-pipeline-protesters/
Dakwar, J. (2016). Police at Standing Rock are using life threatening crowd control weapons to crackdown on water protectors. ACLU. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/police-standing-rock-are-using-life-threatening-crowd-control-weapons-crack-down
Hager, E. (2015). Alternatives to bullets. The Marshal project. Retrieved from https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/09/23/alternatives-to-bullets#.DWL2ReGAB
Khalik, R. (2011) Six Creepy new weapons the police and military use to subdue unarmed people. Alternet.org. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/story/151864/6_creepy_new_weapons_the_police_and_military_use_to_subdue_unarmed_people
Levin, S. (2017). Dakota access pipeline activist say police have used excessive force. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/18/dakota-access-pipeline-protesters-police-used-excessive-force
Meyer, G. (2006). Non-lethal weapons: Early use means fewer deaths and injuries. Police One. Retrieved from https://www.policeone.com/less-lethal/articles/134658-Nonlethal-weapons-Early-use-means-fewer-deaths-and-injuries/
Murgado, A. (2013). Less lethal weapon options. Police Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.policemag.com/channel/weapons/articles/2013/03/less-lethal-weapon-options.aspx
Newcombe, T. (2015). Have non-lethal weapons reduced deadly force. Governing Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-non-lethal-weapons-police.html