US Army Pays People To Riot

How does the US Army know if its less-than-lethal armaments are effective without being deadly? Live fire training exercises employing a mob of volunteers, of course.

That's right, if you are over 18 and live in the greater New Jersey area, you too can get $US20 per hour to be whacked with batons and shot with rubber balls! The testing takes place in a non-descript one-storey building, known as the Target Behavioural Response Laboratory, located a few miles from Picatinny Arsenal, the US Army's research and development centre. Here, a nine-member team of engineers study how effective non-lethal technologies perform and the psychological reasons for doing so.

"I can't just shoot a laser or loud sound at a piece of wood and expect it to run away," John Riedener, the lab's technical director told "We need to know how well it chases someone away. It's all about data, controlled experiments. It's about the probabilities of what can happen." To that end, the US Army actively recruits volunteers from local colleges and libraries to pretend to be part of an angry mob, paying them $US20 an hour with the small chance of permanent injury (though all tests are supervised by the Picatinny's Institutional Review Board).

So what sort of tests are in store for volunteers? As explains:

In one experiment, about two dozen volunteers are given bean bags, which are stand-ins for rocks, and told to deposit them in slots about 20 feet in front of them. But between the volunteers and those slots are one or two men in riot gear, each wielding a baton with a painted tip.

Volunteers are expected to get as many "rocks" past the guards in a certain amount of time, with bonus cash for sinking enough of them. The volunteer mob is tracked during the exercise with motion sensors that tracks and analyses their movements. This is vital information when determining how effective a bean bag shot or baton strike is against various individuals because it not only shows what the non-lethal force accomplishes, it also clues in researchers to warning signs that lethal force is necessary. Surprisingly, the bean bag-rock test results suggest that monetary loss (i.e. you pay a dollar for every bean bag that doesn't make it in the slot) is a much more effective deterrent than physical pain. So if you want to stop a riot, hit them in the wallet. [NJ via BI]

Image: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger

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