Police take soft option with gas launch guns

ARMED: The new XM1006 sponge rounds carried by armed police.
ARMED: The new XM1006 sponge rounds carried by armed police.

Armed police have added a new tactical weapon to their arsenal in dealing with serious conflicts.

As of Saturday the XM1006 sponge round was made available to Armed Offenders Squads and Special Tactics Groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The sponge round is fired from a 40 millimetre gas launcher which is already used by AOS and STG officers.

Used in the most serious cases, the rounds have a high density sponge nose and a firing range of 30 metres.

They are designed to spread their energy across more than four times the surface area and will cause abrasions and bruising.

Superintendent Bruce Dunstan says the use of the sponge round is expected to be limited.

"The conditions under which any tactical option may be used by police will always be dictated by the actions and behaviour of those we are confronted with at the time."

Mr Dunstan says consultation was made between police, the Independent Police Conduct Authority and other interest groups before introducing the new weapon.

Its use has also been independently reviewed.

"While the round does cause pain, bruising and abrasions there is a wealth of international medical evidence that shows the risk of serious or life-threatening injury is extremely low," Mr Dunstan says.

The round is not designed to replace other tactical options such as firearms.

Western Leader