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Phoenix Police Department could expand less-lethal response program

A pilot program designed to reduce lethal force encounters could be expanded to the entire Phoenix Police Department.

Thirty patrol officers spent two weeks focusing on de-escalation and communication techniques, less-lethal deployment options, including pepper balls, along with scenario-driven training. Then they reported to Mountain View and Cactus Park Precincts armed with less-lethal response systems. The precincts were chosen because they had high percentages of violent crime areas and led the city in officer-involved shootings. 

Between October and December 2021, the methods, identified in a City Council report as “CST Penn (40MM) and the PepperBall systems,” were deployed 352 times and discharged 34 times. A Police Department spokesperson described the 40mm as a tool that deploys a nonflexible canister type projectile, with greater accuracy over long distances than a stun bag, and more compact and lightweight than stun bag shotguns.

Both tools are used by the department’s downtown operations unit and tactical support bureau. According to the report, “By allowing these systems in a patrol capacity, it provides officers with additional options in order to help resolve high-stress violent encounters outside of the limited tools previously accessible to them.”

This week, the city’s public safety subcommittee will be briefed and could be asked to support a full rollout across the department. 

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.