Durango Police Department officers have been training to use a new nonlethal projectile launcher that shoots sponge-tipped plastic-body rounds that don’t penetrate the skin.
Durango Police Deputy Chief Brice Current said the new launchers are a safer alternative to nonlethal bean-bag rounds the department has been using.
“The bean-bag rounds are not as safe at distance or up close, and these are safer at distance and up close,” Current said.
Fifteen 40LMTS tactical 40mm single-shot launchers were purchased to outfit all of DPD’s patrol vehicles. Launchers cost the department $500 each, for a total of $7,500.
Current said situations where these new launchers come in handy include pacifying someone who’s looking to cause harm to themselves or others when an officer is not being directly threatened.
“It gives us an alternative to say if somebody wants to hurt themselves or others, and it’s not a direct threat to us at that point, we can create distance and create a safe environment,” Current said.
Current said while the new launchers provide for more options, he doesn’t think they will be used as often as Tasers when nonlethal force is necessary.
Training entailed working with the devices so officers can understand the functionality of the device and become accurate with it.
“We want to train to hit the right areas that aren’t going to cause injury,” Current said. “We obviously want to avoid certain areas of the body.”
In a Facebook post about the new launchers, DPD called them souped up Nerf launchers.
“I think that's a good phrase for what they are,” Current said.
Training was completed for all officers, and launchers have been added to all vehicles.
“It’s our responsibility to be well-trained and accountable and have less-lethal options,” Current said.
Current said first and foremost the role of the police is to make sure the public is safe, and these new launchers give DPD another nonlethal option when filling that role.
“Our job is public safety, and that even means people who are making bad decisions. We want to make sure they’re safe as well,” Current said. “Just because someone is in crisis doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.”