In the ever-changing dynamics of law enforcement, agencies across the nation are continuously adapting and utilizing all resources possible to equip officers with training and gear. In this modern policing era, there are vast amounts of training and equipment available for law enforcement today. A topic that is often scrutinized by citizens and media is law enforcement’s use of force. There are many instances where deadly or less lethal force is necessary to keep officers and civilians safe. Every situation is unique and requires officers to carefully observe situations at hand and within seconds make a determination if a threat is present or may arise. Officers are often left with split second decisions to take necessary action to protect themselves, additional officers and citizens.
We also continue to observe an increase in people who are suffering from a mental crisis. These are very volatile and unpredictable situations that must be handled in a sensitive manner. Our deputies have participated on calls where the person wished to commit “suicide by cop.” Our training is clear and must not be deviated from when deadly force is exhibited. Having less lethal options available to deputies in these situations will hopefully allow these individuals the opportunity to seek help from a mental health professional.
Less Lethal shotguns were introduced to the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division in 2018 but only eight supervisors (two per shift) were assigned those. They had to successfully qualify with the shotgun before assignment.
The less lethal weapon has a bright orange in color stock with the wording “Less Lethal” on same to be easily distinguished from a shotgun. The shotgun also has an orange in color forearm in which matches the stock. The less lethal shotgun shell is clear in color which distinguishes it from a regular shotgun round. The less lethal weapon shoots bean bags rounds which are considered less lethal force.
In 2020, a Patrol Deputy submitted a proposal to Command Staff regarding the importance and benefits of adding additional less lethal shotguns to assure each shift’s eleven deputies, Trinity deputies and deputies assigned to the zoo, had a less lethal shotgun in the use of force continuum. Three additional weapons were approved and purchased. However, sometimes it was difficult for patrol deputies to exchange weapons at shift change due to call volume..
In 2021, Randolph Rotary provided grant funding to convert ten additional shotguns to less lethal weapons and actively participated in the conversion of those weapons as a community service project. Through the Sheriff’s Office budget an additional six shotguns were converted to less lethal weapons for the Patrol Division; giving two full shifts of deputies on duty each day, access to a less lethal shotgun.
The Sheriff’s Office continues to work on purchasing conversion kits as they become available from suppliers so that each Patrol Deputy will have the less lethal option in the use of force continuum.