502 – Less-Lethal Impact & Restraining Devices

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Definition

Less-lethal munitions are specialty munitions designed to cause blunt trauma at extended distances. They are considered to be an extension of a deputy or detention officer’s baton to increase personnel safety through distance. Specialty munitions are intended to gain compliance of subjects through pain, disorientation, anxiety, or fear. By design and application, less-lethal munitions are used to gain compliance of subjects with less potential for causing serious bodily injury or death than standard firearm projectiles. They are usually used as a less-than-lethal force option but may, by specific application, be used as a deadly force option when justified.

Less-lethal munitions include, but are not limited to:

  • Impact rounds fired from a 12 gauge shotgun,
  • 37mm / 40mm launchers, and
  • Hand-thrown rubber pellet grenades.

Specialty impact munitions may also contain chemical or distractive elements.

Policy

Compliance and Training

All Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) personnel shall observe the procedures in this policy for the use and carry of less-lethal weapons, including: the “straight stick” baton, expandable baton, bean bag rounds, hobble, or other restraint devices. [CALEA Standards 4.1.4 & 4.3.1]

Personnel assigned to specialized units such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and the Special Response Group (SRG) may be issued a 36” wooden baton. Specialized unit members are only authorized to use and deploy the assigned 36” wooden baton as outlined in their standard operating procedures.

Each unit commander shall ensure all specialized unit members authorized to carry a wooden baton have been trained and certified in its use. Unit members shall also attend the required biennial (every two years) in-service training that includes training and instruction on HCSO policies governing use of force and lethal and less-lethal weapons. [CALEA Standards 4.1.4 & 4.3.1]

Personnel who carry and use a “straight stick” baton, expandable baton, chemical weapons, and conducted electrical weapons (CEW) shall comply with applicable HCSO policies, state laws, and federal laws at all times.

NOTE: Specialized units within the HCSO may use these and other restraining devices as authorized in the unit’s respective standard operating procedures.

All personnel authorized to carry less-lethal devices will receive TCOLE-approved training on the proper use of the “straight stick” baton, expandable baton, CEWs, chemical weapons, bean bags, and other restraint devices and must be able to demonstrate proficiency before being permitted to carry these items.

All weapons, devices, or use of force training for HCSO commissioned deputies shall be conducted through the HCSO Academy.

At the time of training, all personnel will be instructed in the HCSO policies governing use of force and lethal and less-lethal weapons and be issued copies of the policies. [CALEA Standard 4.3.4]

All certified personnel shall receive in-service training on the use of authorized less-lethal weapons at least biennially.

A certified firearms instructor will monitor all firearms qualifications and in-service training on the use of lethal and less-lethal weapons. [CALEA Standard 4.3.3 a]

Use of Impact Devices

Licensed peace officers who are commissioned by the HCSO and have successfully completed a HCSO-approved course of instruction on a particular impact device may carry or use the device. [CALEA Standard 4.3.1]

Detention officers assigned to specialized units who have successfully completed a HCSO-approved course of instruction on a particular impact device may be authorized by their bureau commander to carry or use the impact weapon for a specific duty assignment.

The “straight stick” baton and the expandable baton may be utilized by personnel under circumstances where the use of force is authorized by state law and existing HCSO policy.

Specifically, the “straight stick” and expandable batons may be used for:

  1. Self-defense of a deputy,
  2. Defense of a third party,
  3. Prevention of the escape of an arrested person from custody, or
  4. Effecting the arrest of a person in lieu of the use or threatened use of deadly force.

The “straight stick” and expandable batons shall be directed only towards vulnerable areas below the shoulder line and only with that degree of force that does not inflict serious bodily injury or death except in circumstances where the use of deadly force may be authorized by HCSO policy and state law.

The manner and method of carrying the “straight stick” and expandable batons will be determined by HCSO Department Policy #240 – Dress Code.

The authorized “straight stick” baton shall:

  1. Be 26” in length,
  2. Be made from high density, close, and straight-grained hickory,
  3. Not weigh less than 14 or more than 18 ounces,
  4. Be cylinder-turned to a diameter of 1-1/4”, rounded at both ends, smooth-sanded, and stained black,
  5. Not be altered, loaded, or weighted in any manner, and
  6. Be secured by a black neoprene rubber sleeve grommet and be snug-fit and slip-free under normal hand pressure. The grommet shall be positioned 6” to 8” from one end to provide the user a secure two-handed grip. The overall length of the grommet shall be 1-5/8” with an outside diameter of 1-9/16” that tapers evenly to 1-1/4”.

The authorized expandable baton shall:

  1. Have an overall extended length no less than 16 inches or more than 26 inches,
  2. Have a shaft of milled forgings of 4130 or 4140 steel or duralium in silver color or black chrome,
  3. Have a handle of textured steel, durable non-slip rubber, or foamed vinyl. Foamed vinyl handles may be subject to rapid wear and must be kept neat in appearance and serviceable or replaced.
  4. Not be altered in any way unless necessary to repair it to its original condition.

The appropriate model numbers of the Armament Systems and Procedures, Inc. (ASP); Monadnock Mariner and Detective Series; and Peacekeeper Products Rapid Containment Baton (RCB) expandable friction lock batons that meet the above standards are acceptable. Other brands or makes of the expandable baton must be approved by the HCSO Academy staff.

Authorized impact devices for specialized units include:

  1. 36” standard wooden baton,
  2. 12 gauge shotgun (orange stock / barrel): Utilized with less-lethal bean bag rounds,
  3. 40mm direct impact marking round,
  4. 12 gauge shotgun (drag stabilized), and
  5. 12 gauge drag stabilizer round.

Training Validation

An impact device certification control officer shall be appointed by the HCSO Academy director. The control officer shall maintain a file of personnel who have passed an approved impact or restraint device training course as established by the HCSO Academy.

The impact device certification control officer, in coordination with HCSO Academy staff, shall coordinate, monitor, and document mandatory biennial in-service training for all less-lethal weapons authorized for use by the HCSO.

Failure to complete biennial in-service training for less-lethal weapons will result in the employee’s authorization to carry and use the weapons being revoked until the required training has been completed.

Restraint Devices

Use of restraints to secure prisoners is limited to the following HCSO-approved restraining devices:

  1. Double-locking handcuffs,
  2. Flex-cuffs,
  3. Belly chains,
  4. Leg restraints,
  5. Double-locking leg shackles, and
  6. Hobbles.

All prisoners or persons in protective custody will be handcuffed behind their back and will remain so restrained while being transported by HCSO personnel.

Any procedure involving connecting the prisoner’s restrained legs to the restrained hands (commonly known as “hog-tying”) SHALL NOT be utilized. [CALEA Standard 70.2.1]

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

February 22, 2011

January 14, 2013

May 1, 2013

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