TORRINGTON, Wyo. (AP) — Sheriff's officials in Goshen County are touting a grenade launcher as a useful tool for keeping the peace, even though they have never used it.
The Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1sSTJkQ ) reported Sunday that officials bought the weapon for use in the county jail, which houses 25 inmates and has not had a large fight in the past year.
Lt. Jeremy Wardell says the grenade launcher, one of three the county has owned, is a less-lethal option for controlling riots. He compared it to pepper spray or a Taser.
"We would use it in situations when less-lethal force is justified to get the situation under control," Wardell said. "That tool gives us an option not to use lethal force."
Officials say deputies can use it to fire tear gas during a hostage situation, though Goshen County has not had one in 15 years. The sheriff's office stocks non-lethal sponge grenades, which provide temporary incapacitation through blunt trauma, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
Goshen County, which has about 14,000 residents, received its first grenade launcher, a 37mm, in the 1950s from Federal Signal, Murphy said. Federal Signal is a global corporation that makes and distributes equipment for police and fire departments.
The county received a M79 single-shot grenade launcher from the Department of Defense's military surplus program. Wardell said the county does not have records on the second weapon after its return to the federal government.
Linda Burt, director of the ACLU in Wyoming, says the grenade launcher could make tense situations worse.
The initial police reaction in August to protests over a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, drew national attention to the militarization of local police departments, with critics arguing that the heavily armed police presence only fueled the tensions.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com