Elkhart police now have more less lethal options to use

NOW: Elkhart police now have more less lethal options to use

ELKHART, Ind. - Elkhart police officers now have more options of less-lethal devices to use to de-escalate situations.

The Elkhart Board of Public Safety just approved a policy allowing officers to use 40mm launchers in order to incapacitate someone who is dangerous to the community or even themselves.

Police officers across the country have been called out for excessive use of force, and that includes in Elkhart.

Now, these new devices show residents that there are even more ways officers can de-escalate situations without grabbing for their gun.

Travis Snider with the Elkhart Police Department tells me there are two devices they use. One is a pepper ball device – that hits near a target and releases pepper spray. It was put in to use last month.

The other one is a 44mm launcher.

“So, you have the foam round and then you have the gel round. That has a higher impact, it’s going to balloon out and you’re going to feel that a little more,” Snider said.

Each device, Snider said costs about $2,000, but he said it’s worth the price.

“Those three items, we’re hoping officers can go to scenes right out in patrol and not have to wait for swat to bring crises scenarios to a close,” he said.

He said it has a longer range and is more accurate than pepper spray or a taser.

“Allows us to bring situations to a close without going to that firearm step. Less injuries to officers, less injuries to people we are dealing with and less injuries to bystanders,” Snider said.

This comes at a time when the Elkhart Police Department is undergoing a review of the department’s policies such as use of force and de-escalation after this video surfaced last year showing Elkhart police officers beating an inmate handcuffed to a chair.

“I know de-escalation is something that we’ve been trying to work on,” he said.

And this helps that goal

“It’s all a part of our use of force which we have been using for years, we incorporated this into it,” he said. “So, we’d still go through the same steps that we ever did, we just have more tools from going from hands-on to say if it rises to the scenario of a firearm.”

Snider said the department already has these devices but now since the Elkhart Board of Public Safety approved this policy, certain patrol officers will also be given these devices as well.

But right now, only a few officers have had the training. Snider says their end goal is to get the devices into more officer’s hands.

And Elkhart residents have mixed reactions.

“I think it sounds like a good idea, but I have a feeling it may backfire. The wrong people get their hands on it they can use it,” Carlos Angulo, one resident said. “With all the guns they have, why add more to it?”

“I feel like it’d be a good resource to help our community, I just hope policeman are wise enough to use them, use them safely and use their precautions,” Anabel Sanchez, another resident said.

Snider said police departments nationwide are starting to add these less-lethal options to their belt.

But for this department, it looks like another way they are updating policies and winning back trust from the community.

On Thursday, Mayor Time Neese, Elkhart Police Chief Chris Snyder, and members of the Police Executive Research Forum will present their final report of the independent third-party assessment of the Elkhart Police Department and what policy changes will be made.

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