Bloomington police get ‘less lethal’ launchers in hopes of reducing injuries among suspects, officers

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Bloomington Police Department announced plans Tuesday to equip officers with “less lethal” launchers in hopes of reducing injuries among suspects and officers.

The launchers are modified shotguns that fire bean bag rounds instead of shells. Bloomington police cited recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing as a big motivator for launching the new program. The more than 100-page report focuses on improving trust between communities and police in the wake of controversial encounters across the country.

“BPD remains committed to providing a safe environment for all citizens while continuing to implement recommendations outlined in the Final Report so as to strengthen trust and collaboration with the community in which we serve,” the department said in a statement.

The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police Local 86 is pushing to make the Less Lethal Launchers available to more IMPD officers. Right now, only special units like the SWAT team have access to this tool. The FOP made the “call to action” last July after a violent month left several officers shot or injured while on the job.

“What we called for was more of a decentralized deployment throughout our city so that our beat officers would have those resources available to them all over,” said Indy FOP president Rick Snyder.

Snyder said it would cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to get that done.

“Every day that goes by is another day we needed that equipment,” Snyder said.  “We do feel comfortable that they city is heeding our call.”

Lawrence police have been using the less lethal launchers for years. About a third of their force have the equipment.

“Think of it as an extension to the old baton, but you can be at greater distance,” said Lawrence Deputy Chief Gary Woodruff. “Distance can frequently increase safety…The ultimate goal is to have this tool available any time in a given circumstance. Most departments are either there or working toward that goal.”