UK: Tests near completion on new police weapon

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On top of CS gas, rubber bullets and Tasers, another "less lethal weapon" that received renewed interest following the August 2011 riots is now in "the late stages of Home Office testing", according to a report in Police Oracle magazine. The Discriminating Irritant Projectile (DIP) can be fired up to 40 metres from a baton gun and releases a cloud of CS (tear gas) particles on impact.

The weapon shows "significant promise and could prove a valuable tool if trouble flared" and "could potentially offer new opportunities in tactics for dealing with fast-moving public order situations," according to Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, head of firearms for the Association of Chief Police Officers. He also said that:

"The range of a Taser is 21 feet - if there is an operational requirement to incapacitate somebody at a distance, the DIP can be deployed from up to 131 feet away." [1]

A page from the Home Office's website stored on the website of the National Archives says that DIPs are intended to "deliver a discrete, localised cloud or burst of sensory irritant in the immediate proximity of an individual aggressor." [2]

Chesterman's statement that it could be used in "fast-moving public order situations" may raise concerns over the potentially indiscriminate nature of tear gas.

Alongside the recent increase in Taser use by British police forces, the testing of DIPs appears to signal another step away from one of the principles that supposedly makes up "the British policing model," which "sets the police amongst the people, toe-to-toe in public order policing terms." [3]

Police Oracle also reports that tests are continuing on "a new version of Taser - the X2 - which has a two-shot capability to deal with multiple assailants," unlike current models which give police officers the opportunity to fire only one set of high-voltage darts into a person's skin. However, the weapon is "still several months away from completing trials, and would then have to be subject to other assessments including medical scrutiny."

Chesterman told the magazine that tests are also being conducted by the Home Office on "one or two sound-emitting devices that could have some currency." During the Olympics the military deployed a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD or "sound cannon") on the Thames, and a LRAD was deployed by American police in Pittsburgh during demonstrations against a meeting of the G20 in 2009. [4]

The Guardian revealed last year that "last summer's riots in England provided a major impetus to Home Office research into new-generation riot control technology, ranging from the DIP to even more curious weaponry described by Cast technicians as 'skunk oil'" - "foul smelling liquids being fired from weapons similar to paintball guns." The newspaper reported that there was also interest in "heat rays and sound weapons", something that would appear to be backed up by Chesterman's statements.

The briefing notes released to the Guardian and produced by the Home Office's Centre for Applied Science and Technlogy said: "No ideas too stupid or 'off the wall' to consider." [5]

Further reading

[1] Cliff Caswell, New less-lethal weapon 'in advanced trials', Police Oracle, 8 May 2013
[2] Home Office, Operational Policing, archived on 8 April 2010
[3] Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Policing Public Order, February 2011 p.6
[4] Sanchez Manning, Sonic cannon on stand-by for Games crowd control, The Independent, 12 May 2012
[5] Ben Quinn, Riots may be controlled with chemicals, The Guardian, 9 April 2012

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