If someone’s covered this already, just chalk it up to my not being able to read everything going on.

Something that has been bothering me ever since I first heard about Alan Olsen’s being shot at Oakland is the whole issue about what he was supposedly shot with and the concept of ‘deadly force’. I was (and to an extent still am) completely unfamiliar with some of the ‘technologies’ being used by police, especially these nasty little items referred to as ‘bean bags’, which “consists of a small fabric “pillow” filled with #9 lead shot weighing about 40 grams (1.4 oz). It is fired from a normal 12-gauge shotgun. When fired, the bag is expelled at around 70 to 90 metres per second (230 to 300 ft/s); it spreads out in flight and distributes its impact over about 6 square centimetres (1 sq in) of the target. It is designed to deliver a blow that will cause minimum long-term trauma and no penetration but will result in a muscle spasm or other reaction to briefly render a violent suspect immobile. The shotgun round is inaccurate over about 6 metres (20 ft) and has a maximum range of around 20 metres (70 ft). Changes to the bean bag round since its inception in the early 1970s have included a velocity reduction from 120 to 90 metres per second (400 to 300 ft/s)[1] as well as a shift from a square shape to a more rounded sock-shaped projectile.” (wikipedia)

What this means, if I’m understanding this right, is that once an officer fires one of these shotguns, anyone within 300 feet of the front of that gun has exactly 1 second to get out of the way. The other thing is this – with something that is, as it says above, ‘inaccurate over 20 feet,’ and an officer knows this, if the officer wants to make sure he hits his target and he is standing over 20 feet away, he probably wants to aim to hit his target from the waist down.

Another question I had was on how officers are trained to use these weapons and though I was not able to find any sort of training manual, I DID find a review of a case which indicates to me that officers are not only trained in how to use the weapons, their strengths and weaknesses and under what circumstances they should be used, they are also trained to know that although these weapons are referred to as ‘less lethal’ options, depending on how far away the officer is from his target and where he aims, bean bag rounds can become a very lethal weapon. For example, in the case of Deorle v. Rutherford and the County of Butte:

“In analyzing the use of beanbag rounds the court noted that such rounds are considered a “long range impact weapon.” Although considered a less-lethal force option, Officer Rutherford acknowledged in his testimony that such rounds could be lethal at thirty feet, the distance he was from Deorle when he fired, and further acknowledged that such rounds may be lethal at fifty feet if it were to strike the head or the left side of a person’s chest. These rounds are “calculated to stop people who are violent or hostile and are threatening injury or death to themselves or others.” Use of bean bag rounds and excessive use of force

So, now we know that a) these bean bag shotgun rounds are inaccurate at a distance of over 20 feet, and b) that such rounds could be lethal at thirty feet.

Why are police using these under circumstances such as Oakland OWS? Given the nature of the demonstration, the use of items such as tear gas (which obscures vision even under daytime conditions), and an extremely narrow window of expression where the use of this weapon could go from ‘giving someone one hell of a punch’ to ‘gosh, I meant to hit the guy in the legs but I got him in the neck”, it would seem that even using bean bag rounds AT ALL would be considered unreasonable use of force.

And a weapon that I’m not sure I’d want in the hands of MY police department, either.

UPDATE: Here is something I found this morning which I think everyone needs to read: “The Oakland PD was operating in a manner that even the US Military does not allow in terms of crowd control. Before gas goes into a crowd shield bearers have to be making no progress moving a crowd or crowd must be assaulting the line. Not with sticks and stones but a no bullshit assault. 3 warnings must be given to the crowd in a manner they can hear that force is about to be used. Shield bearers take a knee and CS gas is released in grenade form first to fog out your lines because you have gas masks. You then kick the canisters along in front of your lines. Projectile gas is not used except for longer ranged engagement or trying to steer the crowd ( by steering a crowd I mean firing gas to block a street off ). You also have shotguns with beanbags and various less than lethal rounds for your launchers. These are the rules for a WARZONE!!

How did a cop who is supposed to have training on his weapon system accidentally SHOOT someone in the head with a 40mm gas canister? Simple. He was aiming at him.
Oakland used methods prohibited in war zones



Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.