Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weapons testing facility to close next year

Companies make and sell hundreds of less lethal weapons for law enforcement agencies that are meant to stop a criminal, not kill the criminal. Those weapons are tested at the Weapons and Equipment Research Institute at FGCU, but the institute will close because its funding is about to dry up.

Charlie Mesloh's passion comes from his experience on duty.

"I was a law enforcement officer back in a time when we had a night stick and a radio and that was pretty much it," said Mesloh, the Director of the Weapons and Equipment Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University.

He and his staff members use grant money to buy less-lethal weapons like tasers, airsoft guns and batons – and test them for their reliability and safety.

"We try to determine where you can stand and deploy a weapon and accurately hit the person and yet not kill them," said Mesloh.

Tuesday, Mesloh's team recorded how well a new long-range taser performs.
It's a one of a kind facility that uses less than $100,000 a year to support law enforcement.

Officers and deputies come to the research institute to learn how to safely use new weapons, like the Taser x2. They practice their shooting at this facility.
After April 30, that free training comes to an end.

"I'm concerned, I'm concerned. I want my tax dollars to be spent properly," said Mesloh.

Without funding to continue research, agencies may make bad purchases on unsafe weapons and his students will miss out.

"Anybody can pick up a book and read but nobody can pick up a taser and test it, and that's what they're taking away," said student assistant Jo Ann Werbalis.

"That experience is going to be lost. We're not going to be a pipeline like we have been for these high levels of federal law enforcement," said Mesloh.

Mesloh's team hopes to finish two more weapons projects before their money runs out next year.

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