Cops Getting Cash for ‘Less Than Lethal’ Weapons

The Wheeling Police Department and Ohio County Sheriff’s Department are scheduled to receive $43,062 in federal grant money to purchase ”less-than-lethal” weapons and munitions along with new crime scene kits.

According to the grant application, the city will receive $31,669 and the sheriff’s department $11,393. Wheeling’s share will be used to purchase new less-than-lethal weapons, munitions, tactical lights, holsters and ammunition. Ohio County’s funding will be used to update its crime scene equipment on its critical incident response vehicle. It also will be used to replace its special response team uniforms and buy new evidence lockers.

The funding is provided by the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. According to Wheeling’s portion of the application, ”the goal of less than lethal munitions is to potentially save lives by incorporating less than lethal weapons as opposed to using deadly force.” The JAG funds will also equip 60 officers with tactical lights and holsters.

Examples of the less-than-lethal weapons Wheeling plans to purchase include a pepperball gun with rounds, $993.20; a 12-gauge shotgun with a less-lethal stock set, 12 units at $900 total; and a Penn Arms 40 mm launcher at $1,200.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said the launcher would be used to propel gas grenades to incapacitate a suspect or to launch smoke canisters to use as a diversion or concealment. An example of the possible need for such weaponry would be during a hostage situation, he added.

”We don’t have any less-lethal weapons – that’s part of our strategic plan,” Schwertfeger said. ”We want officers to have the option to resolve a situation without using deadly force.”

The pepperball gun would propel a ball containing pepper spray-like material also meant to incapacitate suspects when they breathe it in. And the shotguns with less-lethal stock sets would be used to shoot bean bags into a suspect’s chest.

The stock set would be a different color, such as bright orange, to allow officers to choose them in a decisive moment.

Schwertfeger said the SWAT team has such weapons, but department officers do not.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department’s Special Response Team’s uniforms are worn out, and department officials said they also need cold and wet weather gear to wear during outdoor situations. In addition to evidence kits -10 for a total of $3,087.50- the sheriff’s department also needs new evidence lockers, as ”the current gym lockers are not appropriate for the new evidence processing room.”

Sheriff Pat Butler said federal funding for law enforcement, such as the JAG grant, has decreased over the years.

”Anytime you can get money from the federal government or state … is an asset to any agency,” he said.