Los Angeles police have long used "less-lethal" launchers with sponge rounds for crowd control and by their elite SWAT team on individuals when less than deadly force may have been needed.
But in July, the Los Angeles Police Department equipped patrol officers from several stations, including the Mission Community Police Station in Mission Hills, with these "guns" and their 40 mm sponge rounds, which are intended to incapacitate but not kill a subject, to use on their beats for the first time.
The three-month pilot project, which ended Oct. 31, was designed to expand LAPD's "less-lethal" options, which already include Tasers, batons, pepper spray and beanbag rounds, on city streets and is part of a broader department effort to curb escalation, said Sgt. Richard Evans, LAPD's uniform and equipment coordinator.
"The goal is to de-escalate (a situation) as quickly as possible and bring about a resolution ... that is best for all," Evans said.
An LAPD committee is reviewing the "promising" data and will make a recommendation to Police Chief Charlie Beck about whether to expand the use of these launchers and sponge rounds to patrol officers department-wide, officials said.
The sponge rounds, which have a sponge-tipped plastic body and generally do not penetrate the skin, have reportedly been tested or are being used in patrol settings in other cities such as Duluth, Minnesota, Ferguson, Missouri, and Dallas in recent years as controversial police shootings around the country have ignited a national debate on officer use of force and race.
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