Police have given more than 100 people head injuries with so-called less-lethal ammunition such as rubber bullets at protests this summer, according to a report published by the group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
While the group found at least 115 such injuries, it believes the actual figure is higher, as the report relied on publicly available data and did not include some reports where it was not satisfied with the evidence.
The group analyzed social media, news reports and lawsuits for reports of injuries, counting only those with visual evidence except in the case of major news outlets.
“Protests calling for justice and accountability for police violence have often been met with more police violence. From Los Angeles, CA to Little Rock, AR, demonstrators and bystanders suffered fractured skulls, broken jaws, traumatic brain injuries and permanent vision loss from these inherently indiscriminate weapons,” research leader Rohini Haar, a medical adviser at PHR and adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said in a statement.
“The sheer scale and scope of the head injuries caused by kinetic impact projectiles across the country suggests that U.S. law enforcement has a systemic problem when it comes to abusing crowd-control weapons during protests,” Haar added. “Even the laws on less-lethal weapons that do exist are not being followed.”
Haar told USA Today that even the term “less lethal” can be misleading. A 2017 study she co-authored found 3 percent of people hit by the projectiles around the world were killed and 15 percent were permanently injured.
“Weapons are just as lethal as somebody wants them to be,” she told the newspaper.
The group issued several recommendations along with the research, including a ban on weapons that fire several projectiles from one canister and stricter enforcement of departmental rules on the use of such weapons. No national standards exist for the use of such weapons, according to USA Today.