Nonlethal weapons legitimizing forcesThe legitimacy of the use of force by the police and the military often generates significant debate. In recent years there has been a re-emerging interest in so-called ‘non-lethal’ or ‘less-lethal’ weapons: equipment supposed to minimize or at least reduce the severity of injury in comparison to other options. While items such as plastic bullets, chemical irritant sprays, and electroshock equipment still dominate available non-lethal options, the future is supposed to bring a diverse array of acoustic, electromagnetic, biological, and chemical devices.

My research has often suggested the need for skepticism regarding the purported benefits of this class of weaponry. While not wishing to completely dismiss the potential of alternative force options to help realize more preferable outcomes, the deployment of non-lethal weapons raises various grounds for concern.

Their applications and contexts of use are multiple and not always foreseeable, and the manner of their use does not always result in minimal injury. Moreover, though many states and corporations boast about the robustness of their safety testing procedures and the strict rules in place governing the use of force, past experience across many countries indicates such statements should be approached with some caution.

There is a key question at stake in such developments: what does it means to claim that the problems associated with the acceptability of the use of force can be ‘solved’ through this application of technology? This question has been at the center of much of my research.

Policing and Evidence Group

With colleagues at the University of Exeter, I organize the Policing and Evidence Group (PEG), where we run a project specifically looking at the ‘Taser’ electroshock weapon.

Selected Publications

(For a complete listing of my publications click here)