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Ferguson Police First To Test Less-Lethal Gun Attachment

The Ferguson police force will be introduced to new, less-lethal gun attachments this week.

The “Alternative” is an orange device that attaches to a handgun barrel. When a bullet fires, it fuses with a ping-pong-ball-sized piece on the end of the gun, which blunts the force of the bullet.

Ferguson’s assistant police chief, Al Eickhoff, was searching for a device that could have prevented the death of Michael Brown — who was shot by a police officer last August — when he came across the Alternative, reports The Washington Post.

The fused bullet travels with enough force to knock down and incapacitate a person at a range of up to 30 feet. It might even break a few ribs, but it almost never breaks the skin and is not lethal, even at close range.

This week, five Ferguson police instructors will train to use the Alternative before it’s introduced to the entire force.

“It gives another option,” Eickhoff told The Washington Post. “You are always looking to save a life, not take a life,” he added.

Officers would carry the Alternative with them, and attach it to their gun when needed. The device would only work for the first bullet. Following rounds would be lethal.

“Concerned with the number of deaths of officers and citizens resulting when confrontations occur, where a new lethal force option would have been preferred but not readily available, we developed the Alternative,” the producer Alternative Ballistics explains on its website.

An officer could attach the device within one second without looking away from the target or moving the gun, it adds.

But critics worry even the few seconds it would take the officer to decide to use the device and attach it are valuable time that could put the officer in danger.

“I am all about less lethal,” former Missouri police Major Steve James told The Washington Post. “What bothers me is we will allow an officer to face immediately deadly jeopardy with a less-lethal round. Deadly force is the most likely thing to repel deadly force.”

The Ferguson police force is the first domestic force to train with the Alternative.

Eickhoff said the device won’t work every time, but it could give officers the opportunity to not take a life. Still, he admitted the Alternative probably wouldn’t have saved Brown’s life. “You could still shoot him with this round,” he said, “and he could still get up and come at you.”

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