WASHINGTON (MNS) — The U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego was recently issued 35 high-powered pepper-ball launchers as part of a one-year pilot program that could make its way to El Centro as soon as next year.
The air-powered launchers, which fire pellets of oleoresin capsicum, a natural form of pepper, can be fired accurately up to 100 feet and burst upon impact, causing severe irritation to victims' eyes, ears, throat and lungs. Numbness around the lips and intense coughing also can result from contact with the pepper.
"They look like something out of Buck Rogers," said San Diego Border Patrol spokesman James Jacques. "It's a whole different weapon within the use-of-force structure that all officers must follow."
INS officials and Border Patrol agents across the country have praised the device for its ability to defuse conflict situations without the use of lethal force. Currently, most Border Patrol agents must use pepper spray or batons that can only be applied at close range when confronted with violent situations.