Local officers have a new tool to deter threats

MIAMI, Okla. – Local law enforcement officers now have a new way of deterring threats while preserving life using PeppeBall launchers and PepperBall Blast.

Miami Police Department Lieutenant Jason Bissell is a certified trainer and held two sessions this week to train 15 area officers on the proper use of non-lethal devices.

As the MPD’s lead trainer, Bissell also provides training for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, where he has a Reserve Commission.

“It’s a great alternative,” Bissell said.

Bissell said the PepperBall launcher models, the FTC and VKS, are designed to prevent deaths and provide an effective option to lethal or less-lethal weapons.

About PepperBall training

The PepperBall launchers can only be used by trained officers and according to policy, MPD officers only use force when it is reasonably necessary to accomplish lawful goals, protect themselves or others from physical injury, or prevent escape.

Officers are trained to utilize a progression of force, beginning with verbal warnings, physical directions, and demands, and ending with the discharge of weapons as a last resort.

The PepperBall devices provide a non-lethal option that should only be used in active resistance situations, such as crowd dispersal or distraction during riots or when people are threatening physical harm or property damage.

Officers are trained to evaluate a situation using a three-pronged strategy that considers the seriousness of the offense, the immediate danger to the public’s safety, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee.

The PepperBall launchers shoot hard plastic breakable spheres using high-pressure air and CO2 to deliver PAVA (pelargonic acid vanillyamide) powder projectiles upwards to 60 feet with a powder saturation of up to 150 feet.

The ingredients in PepperBalls are based on capsaicinoids, one of the spiciest substances found in pepper plants that can render a person unconscious and stop them for up to 15 minutes.

The area where the projectiles strike the person may also sustain bruises, abrasions, welts, and perhaps bleeding and officer are trained to not aim at faces, necks, spines, or groin areas to avoid potential greater harm.

Four different projectile types are utilized, each with varying amounts of PAVA, a harmless powder, or a more powerful substance called a glass-breaker that may break windows on cars and houses.

The officers also received training on how to use a PepperBall Blast, a smaller handheld weapon meant to fire a single blast for use in closer situations like entry situations and jail riots.

According to Bissell, any use of these devices by MPD officers is reported and documented.

Alternate Strategies

Officers also learned about de-escalation strategies and legal guidance on what constitutes fair and acceptable use of a weapon during the training.

Before deploying the PepperBall systems, the officers were instructed to issue verbal warnings. If fired, they were instructed to employ a certain amount of shots and, when practical, to use tactical pauses to further evaluate the situation.

The participating class was shown a number of videos demonstrating the usefulness of the PepperBall as well as other situations where having this alternative accessible would be beneficial to both suspects and cops.

After passing a test and a range training where they fired a number of rounds from the launcher, the police were certified to use the weapon.

According to Bissell, the Miami Police Department has successfully employed firearms in a number of circumstances, potentially saving lives.


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