The beanbag round and the SL6 have far greater ranges, but they don't always disable the target, Hillmann said. Use them on a man charging you with a knife and an officer may end up slashed, he said.
"They should not be available to everyone," Hillmann said. "That would mean every police officer would have to maintain proficiency and training in every one of those weapons."
Such training would require time, specialized expertise and greater expense, he said, because "it would be absolutely inappropriate to take all those weapons and put them in the hands of people who are not necessarily trained or qualified to use them."
That explanation does not persuade Miguel Cortez. "It's worth it for them to carry those other weapons. It would save lives."
His stepson, Efrain Lopez, was shot and killed by LAPD officers as he charged them, swinging a broomstick, in November, 1992. Lopez, 18, of Pacoima, was on PCP at the time.
The officer who fired on Lopez was cleared of wrongdoing by a district attorney's investigation and was not disciplined by the Police Commission. But Police Chief Willie L. Williams at the time noted that the officer erred in dropping his baton when confronted by Lopez, "effectively limit(ing) his options to either hand-to-hand combat or possible use of his gun."
The shooting death could have been avoided if the officer had better used the weapons he had, said Allan Parachini, a spokesman for the Los Angeles branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It seemed to us to be an incident where the nightstick should have been used," Parachini said. Or, he added, officers should have waited for backup.
Parachini said officers generally carry adequate less-than-lethal weapons--although he is working with the National Institute of Justice to help develop more effective ones. Generally, officers just need to make better use of what they already carry, Parachini said.
"Talk is the ultimate less-than-lethal technology," said Parachini, who advocates better training in conflict resolution for police officers. "There is no risk of killing the subject with talk. There is a risk of killing the subject with every less- than-lethal weapon out there right now."
But even talk does not work all the time, Parachini said. He acknowledged it would have been futile to try and reason further with Lopez, while he was under the influence of PCP.
"There's no one perfect weapon," said Jacobs of the San Fernando Police Department, "or else we'd all be carrying it."
* VALLEY BRIEFING: A graphic look at non-lethal weapons. B2