King County Sheriff’s deputies say new law takes away a less lethal tool

Jul 9, 2021, 4:12 PM | Updated: 4:18 pm
less lethal, seattle police, SPD staffing...
Seattle police officers at a 2018 demonstration. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

King County Sheriff’s deputies, who have asked to stay anonymous, told the Dori Monson Show on KIRO Radio that a bill out of Olympia is taking a less lethal weapon — known as beanbag shotguns — away from law enforcement.

The deputies cite House Bill 1054, which “prohibits law enforcement agencies from acquiring certain specified military equipment.”

In a presentation shared with the sheriff’s office and then with the Dori Monson Show, it says that “military equipment” includes “firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or larger,” and Dori was told that beanbag shotguns fall under that description.

“The people who want the police to use less lethal force just took away one of our best tools,” wrote one sheriff’s deputy.

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Former King County Sheriff’s Deputy Viktor White, who now lives and works out of state, says a dozen or more of his former colleagues have reached out to express how disappointed and frustrated they are.

“I can totally relate,” White said. “I, personally, myself, I was vouching for that weapon, that tool that was an extremely helpful option, which is the bean bag shotgun, for at least a decade. As soon as I came up to the sheriff’s office from the Los Angeles Police Department, I said we’ve got to have this tool because with Los Angeles Police Department we had tons and tons of them on the streets and they worked very effectively. So I can definitely imagine the frustration.”

The weapon they’re speaking of fire beanbags, not bullets, and White says is a less lethal option.

“Whoever came up with this law and whoever approved it, they just clearly cannot even fathom — and I don’t think they even listened to any law enforcement professionals or trainers or or what have you, clearly, because they don’t have a clue,” White said. “But I will tell you that this beanbag is such a valuable tool. Like I said, I vouched it for a minimum of 10 years.”

“As an example, if you have a person with a knife that you can’t get to get close enough to with a taser or what have you, you can’t go hands on with him, now your only option really is a firearm,” White said. “And isn’t the whole point of using less force to hopefully not have to take somebody’s life? That’s the whole point of having this tool and now it’s being taken away and, again, we fought for years and years and years to have it and get the training implemented, getting as many out there on the street as possible so that we could have another option, another tool, so that we didn’t have to use lethal force.”

White explains that the beanbag gun is made to target certain areas of the human body that cause pain so that members of law enforcement can then gain compliance.

“We’re trained to not shoot them in the head and in the groin and other sensitive areas,” he said. “We’re trained to effectively use it, hit them in the stomach area or the meaty portion of the thighs and that pain compliance takes them down and we can take them into custody safely and save their life, versus have to take it with a firearm. And now, what is our other option?”

“This is a huge detriment to public safety all around,” he added.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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King County Sheriff’s deputies say new law takes away a less lethal tool