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Detroit police getting less-lethal pepper balls and foam rounds, hoping to reduce fatal encounters

a police squad car
Flickr user Scott Davidson/Flickr

Detroit’s police department has announced new, less-lethal weapons options for officers. Officials outlined their plans during a Monday press conference at Detroit Police Headquarters.

The two new weapon types — a pepper ball launcher and a 40 mm foam projectile launcher — will be kept in a supervisor’s van. Those supervisors will have to be called to a scene and can then deploy the weapons.

Ewing said these weapons will help officers resolve situations without using deadly force.

"Over the past year, there's been several incidents that have occurred in the city where officers were physically attacked. And if we were provided with different tools, maybe we would have had a different outcome," he said.

The department is also getting new body-worn cameras that will allow them to upload footage by wifi.

Assistant Chief Eric Ewing said the plan is for these cameras to be on every officer who interacts with people out on the street.

The announcement came after two recent high-profile cases where officers used deadly force against people with mental illnesses: the October 2 fatal shooting of Porter Burks and the November 10 shooting of Ki’Azia Miller.

Ewing said the department is ready to deploy the weapons now, but they’re waiting on more to be delivered. The weapons will be paid for with the police department's budget.

"This is not to say that we may not have to use deadly force. I mean, that's just part of what we do in policing. But we do not want to do that on a daily basis," Ewing said. "These weapons will allow us the opportunity to try to resolve those situations prior to getting to that level."

The department also announced it will be reintroducing Community Compstat, where residents will be invited to talk about crime and policing statistics in their communities.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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