U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Less Lethal Technologies

NCJ Number
Susan Zucker
Date Published
July 2007
3 pages
This article provides an overview of less lethal (LL) technologies.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reports that as the number of law enforcement agencies using LL technologies, particularly stun guns, has increased, the number of deaths associated with this LL technology also has increased. The public’s reaction to LL technologies and nonlethal weapons (NLW) tends to be negative because of the reported abuses. LL technologies or weapons are developed to assist law enforcement, military, and corrections personnel when lethal force is not appropriate, justified, or available for backup. LL technologies may subdue, confuse, delay, restrain, or incapacitate an aggressor in many different conditions such as prison disturbances, hostage rescues, and riots. LL force will not cause injury to bystanders or life-threatening damage to property and environment. A subset of LL technology is nonlethal technology. The search for NLW is viewed as an effort to find tools or devices that subdue without harm. NLW include those aimed like a rifle against specific antagonists (darts, laser blinding weapons, stickum) and those that affect a whole region or society. Since 1985, LL and NLW research has been largely within the purview of the NIJ which funds studies and new technologies, initiates cooperative agreements and interagency agreements, and issues grants which focus on developing technologies for law enforcement. NIJ seeks to understand the human health effects of LL devices, including chemical, kinetic energy, and conducted energy devices, which are designed to induce involuntary muscle contractions causing the subject to be temporarily incapacitated. NIJ has commissioned the study, titled "In-custody Deaths due to Conducted Energy Devices," to investigate whether the technology can contribute to or cause death and, if so, in what ways. NIJ’s research goals are outlined along with details of seven scheduled research projects regarding additional LL technology studies. References