ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Canandaigua Police Department is seeking a non-lethal alternative to other devices during dangerous confrontations.
The Canandaigua City Council’s Finance Committee endorsed Police Chief Mathew Nielsen’s request for PepperBall launchers as an alternative to lethal weapons, like firearms. The launcher looks like a paintball gun, but it shoots balls of pepper spray.
The idea is to use the tool not only as a less dangerous option for subjects but also for the officer. When police use pepper spray it’s airborne meaning it may, and sometimes does, shoot back at them, according to Chief Nielsen.
“The idea with the PepperBall launcher will be that it will give the officer a greater distance away from that person,” said Chief Nielsen. “There’s a reactionary distance, or a 21 foot rule that we train the officers with. If somebody with a weapon, even a edged weapon like a knife— if they’re within 21 feet that person is still a threat to you, even if they were to be shot with a firearm.”
Officers carry many devices including a baton, pepper spray, taser, and a firearm — the PepperBall launcher would be an addition. “The device itself actually has color coding on it so you can recognize the kind of weapon that you have,” according to Chief Nielsen.
He says that when an officer deploys the device it reduces the amount of visual information that the subject is getting, while restricting their motor functions, giving the officers more time to react. The launcher is large, so the intent is to have them readily available in every patrol vehicle.
The entire Canandaigua City Council now has to vote on the matter for approval— though Chief Nielsen is confident that it will pass.