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L.A. jail tests new heat zapping device

August 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department tested a new device at the L.A. County jail in Castaic Friday that uses heat to safely subdue inmates. There have been half a dozen major disturbances at the Pitchess Detention Center's North County Correctional Facility this year. Jailers have been trained to use tasers, pepper spray and batons but were looking for an equally effective weapon with less impact.

"We're looking for a device that would enable us to intervene in the assault, perhaps lessen its severity without putting either of the potential assailants in a position of disadvantage," said Cmdr. Bob Osborne, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Osborne believes they have found such a solution in the assault intervention device, a space age-looking contraption which transmits a concentrated wave that causes an intolerable heating sensation. Once zapped, the trouble-making inmate would dash out of the way, giving deputies time to move in and stop the trouble. The beam can hit a target up to 85 feet away.

Eyewitness News' Leo Stallworth put himself in the line of fire as a test subject Friday.

"The burning sensation is similar to putting your hand over fire, leaving it there until it gets too hot and you snatch it away," said Stallworth.

Raytheon Company, which developed the device, has donated a test model to be mounted to the wall in a jail dorm for the next six month as part of a pilot program.


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