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Pepper guns an alternative for an increasing number of Utah law enforcement agencies

(KSL-TV)


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FARMINGTON — A Davis County deputy, dressed in jail inmate clothing, volunteered for something most people would rather avoid. Standing against a wall, he allowed another officer to fire a round of pepper spray at his face Tuesday afternoon.

It was part of a demonstration and training event, put on by Curtis Blue Line, a company that sells pepper guns as well as other weapons and tools to law enforcement agencies.

The guns, which hold two rounds at a time of pepper spray that can be fired long distances at more than 400 miles per hour, are currently being used by four agencies in Utah. A Curtis Blue Line trainer told KSL that at least one more agency would likely sign on soon. Pleasant Grove has been using them the longest in Utah so far, having more than a dozen of them in the field for about a year and a half. Patrol Lt. Britt Smith says they offer another alternative in diffusing tough situations.

"Every police use of force situation is always a little bit different. No two are alike," Smith said. "It's a great way to get a suspect who is otherwise noncompliant to comply, and take them safely into custody."

Pleasant Grove officers have deployed pepper guns a handful of times. In bodycam video recorded in October 2014 and provided to KSL through a public records request, an officer can be seen firing a round at a man who did not comply with orders to put his hands on his head.

"He refused to take his hands out of his hoodie pocket," Smith said. "Without the pepper gun, we would have had to wrestle the subject to the ground."

Smith also added that the suspect was standing on a slope, and could have tumbled down if tasered.

"This tool really does help protect the officer and the subject," Smith said. "It's going to cause some pain for a period of time, but once that subsides there's no permanent injury, there's not permanent damage. The incident is over."

Smith said the pepper guns cost around $350 each, a fraction of the cost of a Taser. He also pointed out that Tasers are still very useful, since officers can target a larger area with them. For pepper guns to be effective, the target has to be hit in the face.

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Michael Anderson

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