Lethbridge Police Service re-purposes old shotguns

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge police equipped with less-lethal shotguns'
Lethbridge police equipped with less-lethal shotguns
WATCH ABOVE: The Lethbridge police service is equipping its frontline officers with less-lethal shotguns to help de-escalate high-risk situations. They've already been used three times, each time, with safer outcomes. Erik Mikkelsen reports – Feb 5, 2016

LETHBRIDGE – In late 2015, the Lethbridge Police Service re-purposed its Remington 870 shotguns to fire soc rounds instead of bullets after police identified a gap between Tasers and lethal force in situations involving armed individuals suffering from a mental health crisis.

The projectile is a small, bean-bag like item that is targeted at the lower abdomen, legs and lower arms to reduce the potential for serious injury or death.

“It is not intended to be a replacement for our firearms, but there was definitely a gap,” Police Chief Rob Davis said. “We’re getting called more and more to situations where there are mental health issues, and we needed a tool that would allow us to control the situation, yet increase the chance for the person to survive.”

READ MORE: Critics of Taser use say de-escalation, not weaponry, should be emphasized

The shotguns have been sitting in a vault for nearly ten years after LPS made the transition to carbine rifles, like many police services across the country. Davis said the transition was as simple as getting the new projectile for the barrel.

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“The shotgun itself–we already had them,” Davis said. “It was a good fix to the gap but it also was an economically viable one because we had them in our vaults.”

The barrels of the shotguns have been painted bright yellow so they are easily distinguishable from those that shoot live ammunition.

Davis said the impact of the soc round is comparable to being hit by a baseball bat. The main objective is to not seriously harm a suspect if they don’t have to.

“That’s the whole goal of this [is] de-escalation rather than wrapping things up to a lethal force situation,” Davis said. “The whole goal is to create time, distance, use this weapon and take the person into custody in a safe manner, so we can get them to the mental health facilities.”

Davis said since the implementation on Jan. 1, police officers have only had to use the shotguns once.

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