Toronto

Toronto police considering less-lethal 'clown gun'

Could a device known as the "clown gun" help curb fatal police shootings? The Toronto Police Service is exploring that possibility as it considers providing its officers with new non-lethal weapons.

Alternative Ballistics device reduces speed of first bullet fired

Toronto police studying non-lethal alternative ballistics device that reduces speed of first bullet fired 1:57

Could a device known as the "clown gun" help curb fatal police shootings? The Toronto Police Service is exploring that possibility as it considers providing its officers with new non-lethal weapons.

The device, officially called the Alternative, has been dubbed the "clown gun" because early prototypes looked like a clown's nose that was added to the barrel of a handgun. That design has since been changed to a silver ball connected to an orange attachment, which officers will clip onto their service weapon if they want to use it.

Toronto police aren't commenting on using the potential device, though it's expected to be discussed along with several other non-lethal options when the Toronto Police Services Board meets this week.

Alternative Ballistics, the company behind the product, says it's designed to "incapacitate an individual through blunt force trauma with a diminished risk of death."

It does that by slowing the velocity of the bullet by about 20 per cent, which would make it less likely to penetrate the target's skin.

The next bullet would be fired at full speed.

There have been multiple high-profile deadly police shootings in Toronto, including those of Sammy Yatim in 2013 and Andrew Loku earlier this year.

But while police would like to add options when it comes to using force, the Toronto Police Association's Mike McCormack said he's not convinced the Alternative is the right fit for the city's frontline officers.

"I wouldn't want to see officers fumbling, saying 'Did I put the right thing on this gun? Which round am I using?'" he said.

"I want to mitigate risk as much as possible for my officers and also for the public,"

McCormack also said officers are trained to neutralize threats and keep firing until the threat stops, something which makes cases where only one shot is fired "very rare."  
The Alternative, a device known by many as the 'clown gun', slows the first bullet fired by police officers to make it less likely to kill. The second bullet is fired at full speed. (Alternative Ballistics)

Michael Harvey, a former Toronto police officer and now president of Investigative Solutions Network Inc., said one issue with the device is how long it takes to put it on.

"In my opinion there'd  be very limited time to get this device applied to your gun and fire a round that was meaningful," he said, noting the average person can move over six metres in less than three seconds.

Alternative Ballistics, however, says it takes just seconds to clip on.

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