Arizona sheriff to deploy non-lethal alternative to guns

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Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, and other cities across the country have been at odds over police use of force.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office in the Tucson, Arizona area is about to become the first law enforcement agency in the nation to deploy a new 'alternative' weapon with the hopes of preventing police involved shooting deaths.

In addition to traditional handguns and Tasers, PCSO is adding a third weapon to its deputies' duty belts, a 'less-lethal' handgun that can be used as an alternative to real bullets.

Unveiled Tuesday morning, the new weapon looks like a flare gun, but fires much like a regular pistol. Laser sighted, the 'less-lethal' handgun fires rubber impact cartridges at nearly 400 feet per second.

The rubber impact round isn't sharp, so it's designed not to pierce the skin. But it would feel like getting hit by an 88 mph fast ball.

"We pull out this device and shoot him with this impact weapon, right then and there, we get instant compliance and then no one has to take a life," said PCSO Chief Deputy Steve Henry.

Last year in Pinal County, there were three or four deputy involved shootings.

As cities and law enforcement agencies around the country battle over use of force deaths, PCSO hopes it can prevent similar controversies here.

"Because we care," said Sheriff Paul Babeu.  "We care about the people that we serve, I care about not only my deputies, we care about our protectors, our police officers across America. And so we want to provide them with another option."

The gun can also fire flares, pepper spray, and flash bangs.

While no weapon could ever be guaranteed as completely non-lethal, the gun's manufacturer, Defenzia, says when used properly to hit the torso or legs, there has not been a case of death yet.

"So this weapon in particular has been used in Russia for the past 15 years," said Defenzia Managing Partner Leao Gitirana.  "It's been adopted now in Germany, we're in talks with France, Israel is using it, and Egypt,"

Deputies within the department will be given these less-lethal hand guns, and trained on them in the next six weeks.

Story courtesy KVOA