A firm that provides non-lethal equipment to law enforcement is set to release a new “compliance weapon” that temporarily blinds targets for up to 15 minutes, amidst a national conversation about the militarization of police in the aftermath of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
Shield Defense Systems, LLC, a company based in Reno, Nevada, is currently developing the Z-RO “retinal obfuscation” gun. According to the firm’s website, the weapon, “Obstructs the target’s vision temporarily for up to 10-15 minutes via proprietary technology when deployed on engaged mark.”
Or in other words, despite coming under intense scrutiny over their treatment of protesters and journalists in Ferguson, militarized police departments are about to get their hands on a new toy that blinds people. The weapon will be available for purchase in December.
The company claims that the weapon inflicts no lasting damage on the target and does not harm their retina and cornea, although we heard the same thing about taser weapons which have killed over 500 people in the United States since 2001.
The image of the weapon on the company’s website isn’t likely to calm nerves given that the Z-RO is surrounded by what appear to be standard bullets. There is no explanation of how the “retinal obfuscation” gun actually works.
The notion of “pain compliance,” a technique increasingly being utilized by police departments, has led to concerns that officers have been given the green light to resort to a form of torture that provides plausible deniability.
Fresh spotlight has been thrown on tactics and weapons being used by police departments in America following last month’s disorder in Ferguson, Missouri during which numerous journalists were arrested and had sniper rifles pointed at them simply for doing their job.
A four day trade show in Oakland called Urban Shield has also come under criticism, with Mayor Jean Quan announcing that the event will no longer be held in the city after hundreds of residents protested against the sale of military-style weapons to domestic law enforcement bodies.
According to the Guardian, the show is an opportunity for “weapons contractors who normally deal with the US military seek to redirect their products to domestic use on America’s streets,” and includes the sale of sniper rifles originally designed for the British and German armies.
A recent major ACLU report warns that the increasing use of military-style vehicles and weapons in domestic law enforcement situations is part of a transformation towards militarized policing where Americans are treated “like wartime enemies.”