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Review of the Department of Justice's Use of Less Lethal Weapons

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2009
115 pages
Results are presented from the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) review of the extent to which the U.S. Department of Justice's law enforcement components are using less-lethal weapons, whether controls have been implemented to ensure the weapons are used appropriately and to assess the results of the acquisition and use of less-lethal weapons by Department components.
Results of the review indicate that several of the U.S. Department of Justice's law enforcement components are expanding their use of less-lethal weapons and have added new less-lethal technologies. However, the Department and its components do not coordinate the assessment of these technologies or the development of use and training policies. In addition, the fatalities that have occurred following the use of conducted energy devices, such as Tasers by State and local agencies, coupled with greater use of these weapons by the Department's law enforcement components, lead to the recommendation that the Department coordinate and ensure that the components have appropriate and consistent less-lethal weapons policies that include these devices. While all Department components require uses of less-lethal weapons to be reported, it was found that the components did not maintain complete data and generally did not evaluate their use statistics to determine trends in, or benefits or drawbacks from their use of less-lethal weapons. The Department should consider coordinating efforts by the law enforcement components, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the Civil Rights Division concerning emerging less-lethal weapons. Recommendations are presented to address the results of the review. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of the types of less-lethal weapons used by the Department's law enforcement components, the extent to which the components are using these weapons, whether training and controls have been implemented, whether Department components have identified the impact of using these weapons on their missions, and whether the Department assesses, deploys, and oversees new and emerging less-lethal weapon technologies. The OIG also examined research related to less-lethal weapons conducted or funded by NIJ, and reviewed the Civil Rights Division's investigations of less-lethal weapon usage by Department components and State and local law enforcement agencies. Appendixes I-VII