The Fairfax County Police Department has recently made a significant switch, repurposing 800 shotguns for less-lethal bean bag shotguns. While the officers would previously deploy 12 gauge Super-Sock bean bag rounds from their shotguns occasionally, the 12-gauge shotguns were primarily used with regular lethal rounds. Now, the weapons have been repurposed to solely exist as a less-lethal platform.
“We used our existing shotgun platform and painted them orange, and now they’re being used exclusively for less-lethal ammunition and less-lethal capacity,” said Sergeant Jacob Pearce. “There were roughly 800 shotguns that were repurposed as part of this.”
In addition to the bright orange stock and fore-end, the repurposed shotguns are emblazoned with “Less Lethal” written on the stock. Officers were all required to undergo training with the less-lethal shotguns before putting them to use. They were furthermore taught the proper areas to target to help reduce major injuries. Upon impact, the bean bags should leave a mark and disable the individual.
The change partially took place as a result of past input from patrol officers. The police department examined deployment data from patrol officers on their previous lethal platform and concluded that the shotguns would be better applied in the less-lethal capacity.
“There was an internal look at the deployment data, and we gathered feedback from the patrol officers—so the officers who would be responding to calls and deploying these assets…That data helped inform our decision to make a transition,” said Pearce.
The change resulted from an assessment of what tools patrol officers have at the moment. Currently, officers have handguns, which exist as a lethal option, as well as a patrol rifle program. The new less-lethal shotguns serve as a way to bridge the gap between existing gun options for patrol officers.
“Currently, patrol officers have side arms; they do have a lethal option there,” said Pearce. “We do also have a patrol rifle program, which is a little bit different than a shotgun. So kind of to bridge that gap…it was decided that it made a lot of sense to have a less-lethal option ready to go in every patrol cruiser.”
The switch to the less-lethal bean bag shotguns came from the police budget. With a shotgun platform that was already in use, as well as less-lethal bean bag rounds that were periodically employed, the switch did not seem to be a financial burden on the department. The bean bag rounds cost approximately $6.20 per round.
“[Funds] came from the police budget, and the shotgun was a platform that we already employed,” said Pearce. “And we also employed the less-lethal bean bag rounds that we could deploy in those shotguns.”