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February 03, 2004
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Ohio department adding paintball launchers to arsenal

The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON, Ohio - City police are adding a colorful weapon to their arsenal of less-lethal weapons: paint-pellet launchers. Sgt. Ed Buns, department training supervisor, said he believes the Hamilton department is the first Greater Cincinnati police agency to try the paint pellets. Some are also packed with pepper irritant as an option for controlling unruly suspects.

Springdale police have ordered the paint-pellet guns, Buns said, and other departments are considering it. Cincinnati police use a pepper-ball gun that lacks the paint.

One advantage of the paint:

"If there''s someone in the middle of a big crowd chucking bottles or rocks or whatever, you can sit back 30 or 40 feet or yards away, effectively mark them with the paint and arrest them later," Buns said. "Instead of having police officers wade into the crowd and risk their injury or further inciting the crowd by taking a suspect out, you can more control the situation."

The paint pellets are made of harder plastic than the paintballs used in recreational games, Buns said.

Being hit with a paint pellet stings "like getting hit with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball" at 30 feet, he said. "It''s a temporary shock that will encourage them to be compliant and stop whatever they''re doing."

The air-propelled paint pellet is supposed to inflict no serious injuries but probably will leave "a pretty good bruise," Buns said.

Buns said the department, which began using Tasers two years ago, has found those electric-shock devices useful.

"The problem is that Tasers only handled situations up to about 19 feet," he said. "This weapon gives us the ability to deal with people from 19 feet to 100 feet or more."

City police purchased four of the pellet launchers, which cost $800 to $1,000, by budget-tightening, Buns said.

Ken Cooper, a tactical training specialist in New York, calls the Taser "the most effective and safest" suspect-control weapon for police. But he says the paint-and-pepper launcher is "a great device."

"If you want to preserve human life, what you need are layers of less-lethal alternatives," Cooper said. "Police are desperately looking for tools to get protesters and people who are non-compliant under control. They have to; it''s their mission."

Paintball palette

A pellet with lime-yellow pigment permanently stains clothing and is difficult to remove from skin.

Fluorescent pink paint removes with soap and water.

A pellet that contains burnt-orange paint is laced with concentrated pepper irritant.

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