PepperBall launchers on deck for Canandaigua Police

Canandaigua police explore non-lethal tools

Canandaigua police explore non-lethal tools

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — It’s a non-lethal weapon, and it’s function is similar to that of a paintball gun. They’re called PepperBall launchers, and Canandaigua Police want to implement them.

The technology isn’t new, according to Canandaigua Police Chief Mathew Nielson. But, he said they’re becoming more popular with police.

He’s hopeful they’ll get to use them soon.

“You have, essentially, a paintball filled with OC spray. And the launcher will basically fire these projectiles down range at a distance from the person, providing extra distance for the officer, for their safety,” said Nielson.

The ultimate goal is to resolve tense situations, with less-than lethal force; protecting the officer, and the suspect. Nielson said there are times when a firearm is necessary, but, there are opportunities where another tool like this one, could be more efficient.

The conversation came about, after assessing two officer-involved shootings this year. One, in which he says a taser, didn’t seem to help.

The first officer-involved shooting in 2023, happened in late February. The suspect was shot and killed, after police say he led them on a high-speed chase, and pointing and firing a gun.

The second was in May, and that suspect is accused of displaying a handgun, and ignoring officer commands.

When he started walking away, police say they tried to tase him, but it had no effect. That’s when police say the suspect pointed the gun.

“In the process of evaluating those incidents, the officers were deemed justified in their use of force at the time,” said Nielson. “But it doesn’t prevent us from exploring those incidents to see if we can do better in them.”

He said this is crucial if the suspect has a weapon. It’s a psychological advantage to the officer, who can use the time to gain control of the suspect, before firing a gun.

Canandaigua City Manager John Goodwin said he was part of the conversation to implement them, and supports the move.

“It’s not just the police department, but all of the departments, we’re always reviewing operations, how do we become more efficient, how do we become more effective,” said Goodwin.

“It seems like a lot of mental health incidents are on the rise, for whatever reason is bringing those forth,” said Nielson. “We are tasked with trying to address those.”

Nielson says the launchers will be paid for using money from the department’s Drug Asset and Forfeiture Account. He expects this to pass in the Canandaigua City Council, when they vote November 2.