PARIS — Though reminiscent of toys, police hope new paint guns will provide officers with skills for the deadliest situations.
The equipment, which looks, feels, weighs and functions just like a firearm, except for being bright blue — will be integrated into police’s current repertoire of training to prepare officers for real-world scenarios.
Paris police Chief Michael Madden said the department recently received ‘simunitions’ equipment through a $12,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security geared toward fighting terrorism.
Included are a handgun- and an AR-15-styled paint rifle, protective gear and funding for officers’ wages. According to Madden, the package will improve safety by placing officers in situations — such as close-range gun battles, hostage scenarios or other potentially deadly environments — that are difficult to mimic.
“If our guys never use it, that’s fine. But we need to be prepared,” Madden said in an interview Monday.
Instead of bullets, the so-called ‘simunitions’ equipment fires paint capsules fashioned after the real thing. A hit will mark the target with blue paint, not unlike the sport of paintball, which uses softer, rounded balls.
The applications are diverse, Madden said. For example, officers could be trained on proper technique for firing a pistol in close proximity where, if struck by the paint pellet in the hand or another non-incapacitating area, they would be required to fight on as if they had lost its use.
Madden said that the gear comes at a important juncture in light of the events in New York City, where two police officers were gunned down while on patrol in their cruiser on Dec. 21. Ideally, he noted, the training will also alert officers to identify tense moments when discharging a weapon can be prevented.
“It makes us more professional,” he said. “What happened with the NYPD and the atmosphere prevalent in the country at the moment makes us safer for going through these drills.”
The non-lethal equipment roughly coincides with plans to upgrade seven real Glock handguns, one for each patrol officer, as well as computers in a cruiser and squad room through another federal grant.
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Justice, is awarded annually. This year, the department has been approved for approximately $2,200, according to Madden.
The department’s current firearms, which Madden said are a few years old, will be traded in as part of the deal.
Last week, selectmen authorized the police to receive the funds. The equipment is expected to be ordered next month.