Cops test-fire pepper balls to tackle mobs

After introducing low-flying drones fitted with cameras to keep an eye on mobs, Delhi Police are now considering using “pepper ball technology” to subdue them.

A demonstration of pepper ball launchers and projectiles was organised by a private company for Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi and other senior officers on Friday.

The guns are loaded with pellets filled with pepper powder, and Bassi fired a few to see how effective they were. Three guns – TMT Tactical handgun, TMC-700 and TMC 4 carbine – were handled by Bassi.

“If delivered on target by a high pressure system of the gun, the rounds will unleash a cloud of capsaicin II powder on the face of the aggressor.

It will cause stinging irritation in eyes, breathing difficulties and other extreme, but temporary discomfort,” said a senior police officer.

TMT Tactical handgun has a target range of 60 feet and can fire eight rounds, while TMC-700 has the capacity to fire 160 rounds over 60 feet.

The TMC-700 has the ability to fire many pepper balls at one go. Over 200 rounds can be fired from TMC 4 carbine over 60 feet.

The company demonstrating the weapons claimed that pepper ball products have no long term negative effects, and have started replacing rubber bullets in most developed countries.

It was also claimed that the pellets  do not penetrate the skin or pose ricochet hazards, even if used from close range.

“The pepper balls burst on impact and fill the vicinity with the irritant powder. So, policemen don't have to hit the target to subdue the suspect.

Rather, by shooting at a hard surface in the suspect's vicinity, the suspect will be overwhelmed by a cloud of pepper powder,” the officer added.

At present, police use baton charge or fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse unruly mobs.

“Delhi Police is continuously seized of the law and order scenarios in the city and is committed to new, contemporary and non-lethal methods of riot control,” police said in a statement.

“As empirical studies have shown, even the use of rubber bullets for riot control cause injuries in most cases and fatalities in a few, thereby coming under severe criticism by human rights organisations,” police said.

Earlier, police had used drones fitted with cameras for surveillance and deployed them in riot-hit Trilokpuri in east Delhi.

For Chhath Puja and Muharram, police had again sent out drones scouting for troublemakers, against the backdrop of communal tensions.

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