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Roanoke County police looking to add more bean bag guns for safety

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ROANOKE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - The Roanoke County Police Department is adding a new device to help deescalate dangerous situations between officers and suspects.

The department will buy conversion kits, which will turn officers' guns into beanbag guns.

The decision to buy the kits follows the deadly officer-involved shooting of 18-year-old Kionte Spencer.

Sergeant Wes Campbell with Roanoke County Police say the rounds fired are made with the same material found in bean bags.

The department is looking to have more because it's a less lethal weapon.

Getting hit by one can cause harm, and in some cases, even death depending where a person is hit.

Roanoke County police have 22 of these guns, but it's mainly supervisors and a few officers that carry them in the vehicles.

In order to get more, the department has to buy conversion kits, each kit cost about $100 but officers say the guns are helpful when there's a target a taser can't reach.

"Tasers only go about 25 feet with the cartridges we use the bean bag minimal distance is 15 feet but can go out to 60 feet,"

Radford University Criminal Justice Professor, Dr. Tod Burke says the bean bag guns are helpful but the situation to use them must be anticipated.

"It's used under limited circumstances," Burke said. "Often times the police agencies who do have it, it's limited officers or supervisors and it's used in a situation where there's time to think about a situation would this be the best use of force."