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How often are Phoenix police using pepper spray and foam baton launchers?

Two years after Phoenix police launched a pilot program focusing on less lethal weapons, the department has deployed them nearly 12,000 times but used them far less.

The weapons include pepperball launchers and 40 millimeter foam baton launchers. Assistant Police Chief Bryan Chapman said ideally, they’re used in situations where people are armed with weapons other than guns.

“These tools act not only as a visual deterrent but they are easy — they’re very portable, easy to sling and carry. We’re averaging somewhere about a 10% time that we deploy with it that we actually discharged it, and the discharge is the actual use of the platform,” he said.

That’s been almost 1,300 times between October 2021 and November 2023.

“If they’re armed with a handgun, we have lethal coverage. I know of incidents where we have deployed these against people who have been armed with handguns in their waistbands or whatever, and we have been able to conclude that with the use of less lethal as opposed to being forced to use a handgun,” Chapman told a council subcommittee.

The City Council approved buying 400 each of pepper-spray guns and launchers. However, due to supply chain issues, the department said they have 181 pepperball launchers and 147 launchers.

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