I appreciate the Keene Police Department’s release of their use of force policy in its unredacted form. The section of the policy outlining duty ammunition, however, doesn’t give me much hope that any further soul-searching will result in future reductions in the department’s level of militarization.

If it is the policy of the KPD to “use non-deadly force,” “prevent the escape from custody” and “defend [officers] from … the imminent use of deadly force,” I struggle to understand how the department’s issuance of hollow-point ammunition is necessary to achieve these goals. My understanding is that hollow-point ammunition is known for its stopping power: that it is purposefully designed to expand on impact, thereby inflicting a significantly greater amount of internal damage to tissue, bone and organs relative to the standard cartridge. That is to say, hollow-point ammo is considered desirable specifically because of its greater lethality.

That the KPD issues this ammo is paradoxical to the policy’s claimed goal of minimizing potentially fatal altercations.

It is argued that hollow-point ammo may, in fact, be safer since it tends to not pass through its targets, thereby sparing any potential innocent bystanders from catching a stray that might otherwise exit through the back of the wounded. But surely the risk of a detained person dying from a poorly-aimed hollow-point injury is far greater than this hypothetical risk of a bystander being hit with a poorly aimed through-and-through? This is Keene we’re talking about here, not Times Square.

It is all well and good for departments to issue both-sideist statements proclaiming shock and indignation at the police who murdered George Floyd. But the true litmus test of a department’s seriousness toward substantially reducing fatal interactions should at least include removing the tools that are so clearly designed to inflict as much internal injury as possible.

I hope that the KPD might reflect on if hollow-point ammunition (and a surplus military vehicle, for that matter) are essential tools to maintaining law and order in rural New Hampshire. But it is much more likely that they will only be proactive on this issue when both the mood of the country and the cries of their community give them no further allowance for silence.

Isn’t that why the use-of-force policy was released in its unredacted form in the first place?


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