Beanbag shotguns replaced by $160K worth of pepper ball guns at Spokane County Sheriff’s Office

SPOKANE, Wash — The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will be adding more than two hundred new pepper ball guns into its rotation.

Previously the sheriff’s office didn’t have very many non-lethal options available after House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 went into effect in July. The legislation forced them to stop using shotguns they used to fire beanbag rounds. They had 12 pepper guns for the entire department. However, they resembled paintball guns and didn’t have a lot of range.

“We had to be very, very creative. But at the same time, we also walked away from some situations,” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.

The new pepper guns, from Byrna technologies, shoot a ball filled with the same thing as in pepper spray from further away. The purchase, approved by the Board of County Commissioner’s Office, will cost around $160,000.

“This was one of the few platforms that were tested, the others that we looked at were still in their developmental stage and we weren’t willing to spend taxpayer money on something that was experimental,” Sheriff Knezovich said.

On Tuesday, 19 officers were trained on the new non-lethal weapons from Joshua Schirard, the director of law enforcement for Byrna Technologies.

“They’re very easy to use, the manual of arms is very similar to other systems, so teaching someone how to use a launcher doesn’t take a whole lot of time,” Schirard said. “It’s when to use it and when it’s most appropriate to use it, and when it’s not appropriate to use it.”

Even with the new non-lethal weapon, the sheriff said there are still issues.

“It still doesn’t solve the problem of if we have to insert something into someone’s house, there’s no guarantee if this will go inside a window, at certain ranges. And it also doesn’t give us the ability to disperse a riot,” he said.

Those 19 officers will train the rest of the department. All of the pepper ball guns will be deployed by the end of January.

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