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The Saint John Police Force headquarters, located at One Peel Plaza. Image: Staff photo

Saint John police roll out bean bag shotguns

By Brad Perry Jun 15, 2023 | 5:00 PM

Police in Saint John have another “less lethal” item to use in their toolbelt.

More than two dozen officers are now trained to use bean bag shotguns.

It is an option that is already used by many police forces, according to Chief Robert Bruce.

“This is another way that provides us more options to get to a place where our officers are safe, the public is safe, and the person that you’re dealing with is safe,” said Bruce.

Bruce said bean bag projectiles offer greater accuracy over distance compared to other less lethal options like tasers, batons and pepper spray.

That gives officers more time and distance to resolve a situation without having to resort to using force, he said.

“You have time to think about what you can do. You can use your communication, you can use your de-escalation techniques because you have some room between you and the person that you’re dealing with,” said Bruce.

The shotguns can be used to “deescalate dangerous or potentially deadly situations” and to “protect civilians or officers from harm,” according to a presentation made to the Saint John Police Commission this week.

While the bean bag shotgun is described as a less lethal option, the presentation noted it is not non-lethal.

Bruce said officers are taught to aim for one of three “target areas” on a subject’s body, depending on the particular situation and threat level.

Large muscle groups such as the buttocks, thighs and calves “should be considered first” as they are less likely to cause serious injury, said the presentation to the commission.

The chest, spine, head and neck “should be avoided whenever possible” as it has the “greatest potential for serious or fatal injury.”

Officers should not intentionally target those areas “unless deadly physical force is authorized and justified,” said the presentation.

Bruce said bean bag shotguns are easier to use in a confined area where a person does not have a lot of ability to move around.

In addition, members have been told not to use them on people with frail health or who are pregnant, the elderly, children, or individuals in an elevated position.

According to the police chief, 16 patrol officers have been trained to use bean bag shotguns, along with all nine members of the force’s Emergency Tactical Services unit.


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