Metro police department leery of “less lethal force” device being tested in Ferguson

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MISSION, Kan. -- The Ferguson, Mo., Police Department is testing out a less lethal gun device, called Alternative Ballistics. The company said it has had requests from more than 30 police departments across the country who want demonstrations and to learn more about the product.

FOX 4 reached out to police departments across the metro to see if any will consider using the new device. Out of six metro police departments, FOX 4’s Molly Balkenbush reached out to the Mission Police Department was the only one willing to talk to us about the technology.

“I would certainly go to the chief and say, 'let’s look at this product, see what they are offering,'” said Mission Sergeant Kevin Self. “I wouldn't feel comfortable field testing this product without some extensive testing done on a square range.”

Sgt. Self said he is hesitant about the product, which the company claims will make a bullet less likely to kill someone.

“There are some questions that concern us, not only as a department, but me as an instructor regarding that specific device,” he said. “One of my concerns is: what does that round do to the ball itself? Does it change its trajectory? Does it cause it to be more or less accurate?”

Sgt. Self stressed that the department is responsible for every shot its officers fire, and one of their four cardinal rules of safety is to never point their muzzle at something they aren't willing to destroy.

He also expressed concerns about the time it takes to put the device on a gun.

“The device has to be placed over the muzzle in a confrontation during a high-stress situation where you are using gross motor skills,” Sgt. Self said. “I think the potential for someone or multiple someone’s to be injured is high.”

The attachment, made by California-based company Alternative Ballistics, goes over the muzzle of an officer’s hand gun. The company claims it slows the speed of a bullet, making it less lethal.

The company’s website states: “The Alternative decreases the velocity of the bullet and allows the projectile to impact the threat, lessening the bullet’s penetrating energy. The result is serious pain with less internal injury to the body than a conventional bullet.”

Fred McDaniel, a retired Kansas City, Mo., Police Captain said the technology is nothing more than an attempt to sell a product, and would put an officer’s life at risk.

“Any chief that would subject his personnel to that kind of situation shouldn't be a chief,” said McDaniel. “To arm an officer with a firearm, alleged firearm, which will not put down an assailant, is just stupid and foolhardy.”

McDaniel said he believes the Ferguson Police Department is only testing the device out due to politics and he hopes local police departments don’t consider the product.

“I have seen situations where an attacker would be shot as many as six-to-eight times and still be coming at you,” said McDaniel, who was an officer for several decades.

For Jack Jennings, the new technology is exactly what more police departments need. His grandson, Joseph Jennings, was shot and killed by Ottawa Police last August, after refusing to show police that he was not armed. The post-shooting investigation found the shooting to be justified.

Jennings believes this new, less lethal option could have saved his grandson’s life.

“He would have had a future ahead of him, but getting so many bullets pumped into him he wouldn’t have had a chance of surviving,” Jennings told FOX 4.

Jennings said he doesn’t believe police officers value life, and he thinks this new technology could help change that.

“He definitely didn’t deserve this, all those shots that were pumped into him,” Jennings said. “Joseph was a good kid, he just had the wrong thing happen to him and we all feel so bad over it happening.”