“Shot in the Head,” a report from Physicians for Human Rights, or PHR, documents injuries caused by law enforcement deployment of kinetic impact projectiles, or KIPs, in the context of recent national protests.
KIPs are blunt projectiles shot out of firearms at low velocities, purportedly intended to cause pain to individuals but not penetrate or inflict severe injury. Rubber bullets are an example of commonly used KIPs.
Information for the article, co-authored by adjunct professor for the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Rohini Haar, had to be collected through an open-source research method because no national database on the use of less-than-lethal force by law enforcement exists, according to the report.
By surveying conventional media outlets, social media, lawsuit documents, medical reports and other audiovisual media, PHR was able to confirm at least 115 incidents of people being shot in the head or neck by KIPs between May 26 and July 27.
“Shooting civilians in the head with KIPs violates widely accepted use of force principles, which forbid targeting of the head and neck and emphasize proportional response to actual threats faced by law enforcement,” the report reads.
Scott Reynhout, a research consultant for PHR, said the article is just the first of many steps needed to better address the issue of impact munition “misuse.” According to Reynhout, the report suggests some police departments are more prone to inflicting harm with KIPs than others.
The Berkeley Police Department General Order U-2 outlines the circumstances in which less-than-lethal force can be applied in crowd control situations.
According to the order, less-than-lethal force can be only used with the approval of the chief of police or their designee or in circumstances where the request cannot be made to the chief of police and delay would risk injury to citizens or police.
When some varieties of KIPs are fired at a close range, they can be just as lethal as live ammunition, the report states. At longer distances, KIPs are often inaccurate, striking unintended bystanders or vulnerable body parts.
Anthony Evans, who describes his experience with KIPs in the report, said he was not near any of the “chaos” when he was shot in the cheek with a KIP while protesting in Austin, Texas, according to the report. His injury requires reconstructive surgery.
Due to these risks, PHR is calling for KIPs to be banned for crowd control purposes.
PHR is also concerned that the use of KIPs may act as a deterrent for the assembly of peaceful protests, acting to suppress First Amendment rights.
“As physicians and health workers, the fundamental principle of our professional lives rests on the value of human life and on promoting health and well-being,” the report states. “In these times, we specifically advocate for the protection of the lives of Black people who have been subjected to discrimination, targeting, and disproportionate violence by law enforcement.”