Spotlight: How the PepperBall system gives police officers time and distance to address a situation

For over 20 years, the PepperBall system has been proven to be non-lethal, to quickly de-escalate situations and create compliance

Company name: PepperBall
Headquarters: Lake Forest, Ill.
Signature product: PepperBall projectile

1. What is the inspiration behind PepperBall?

The PepperBall system has its roots in non-lethal options for crowd and riot control and in military applications. As the modern law enforcement landscape evolved, however, the PepperBall team saw the need to provide law enforcement with a day-to-day policing option that would not cause death or permanent injury. By incorporating non-lethal PepperBall into daily patrol, law enforcement agencies can better serve their communities, protect lives and uphold their commitment to justice.

2. What is your signature product?

The patented PepperBall projectile is the heart of the PepperBall system. With an unprecedented level of accuracy and effectiveness, the PepperBall round projectile is the gold standard in the industry. PepperBall projectiles are three times more accurate than any other non-lethal projectile on the market per ASTM testing standards. Additionally, the cutting edge PepperBall VXR shaped rounds offers greater range without compromising accuracy, giving officers additional time and distance to address tactical situations.

PepperBall launchers are best-in-class deployment vehicles for PepperBall projectiles. Both the TAC-SA hopper fed launcher and the VKS PRO dual feed launcher are widely used in day-to-day policing, corrections and mobile field force operations.

3. Why do you believe your products are essential to the police community?

PepperBall saves lives. The non-lethal aspect of PepperBall cannot be overstated. Other less-lethal munitions can be directly attributed to fatalities. For over 20 years, the PepperBall system has been proven to be non-lethal, to quickly de-escalate situations and create compliance. 

The PepperBall system also gives officers time and distance to address a situation. When an officer is forced to move within reach of an assailant, injuries are much more likely to occur. The PepperBall system provides law enforcement with a tool that allows officers to effectively change the behavior of an individual or crowd from a safe distance. Unlike other less-lethal options where an officer must be closer to a suspect, PepperBall can create distances of up to 150 feet for direct impact engagements and over 320 feet for area saturation, greatly reducing risk to both officers and citizens. In addition, the incredible range of PepperBall means officers do not need to have direct line of sight for it to be effective. 

There is another factor that is frequently overlooked when talking about the benefits of non-lethal options. The true cost of a lethal deployment is not just measured in actual expenditures such as legal fees and insurance premiums. There is an emotional cost factor too. With non-lethal PepperBall, officers can feel more confident in their ability to handle potentially dangerous situations without resorting to lethal force, reducing the risk of PTSD and other mental health repercussions. Communities may also feel safer and more trusting of their local law enforcement agencies, knowing that they are committed to preserving life whenever possible.

4. What has been the biggest challenge your company or brand has faced?

PepperBall was introduced as a non-lethal solution for area denial and crowd control more than 20 years ago and many agencies still view PepperBall in the same light. However, PepperBall has evolved and more agencies are understanding the benefit of embracing and implementing the PepperBall system for daily patrol. Agencies large and small, from Phoenix, Arizona, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Hudson, Wisconsin, have experienced the benefit that non-lethal PepperBall as a patrol option can bring. The challenge for the PepperBall brand is to continue to educate agencies, community organizations and government entities on the benefits of day-to-day PepperBall patrol usage.

5. What makes your company/brand unique?

  • PepperBall saves lives: Unlike traditional firearms or less-lethal options, the PepperBall system is designed to deter and incapacitate subjects without causing long-term harm or fatality.
  • Enhanced officer safety: The PepperBall system allows officers to engage subjects from a safe distance, reducing the risk of personal harm.
  • De-escalation: By providing officers with a non-lethal response option, law enforcement can effectively manage situations without resorting to deadly force, facilitating more peaceful resolutions.
  • Versatility: The PepperBall system can be used in a multitude of scenarios, from daily patrol and SWAT to corrections and crowd control, making it a powerful and versatile addition to any law enforcement toolkit.
  • Community trust: As policing faces calls for reform, using non-lethal PepperBall can help build community trust and transparency, showing a commitment to preserving life and reducing unnecessary harm.
  • Training efficiency: Taught by certified master instructors with real-world experience, the PepperBall system is easy to learn and incorporate into training protocols, providing the necessary foundation for agency use.
  • Cost-effective: By potentially reducing instances of costly legal disputes related to use of force, the PepperBall system can be a cost-effective investment for law enforcement agencies.
  • Compliance with policing reforms: As many jurisdictions move toward requiring less-lethal and non-lethal options, adopting the PepperBall system can help law enforcement agencies stay compliant with evolving regulations and community expectations.

 6. What do your customers like best about your brand and your products?

The flexibility of the PepperBall system is one of the aspects that agencies appreciate. PepperBall offers a variety of projectiles and launchers specific to an agency’s needs - ranging from a compact, lightweight hand-held style to a longer barreled shoulder-mounted launcher with greater range and projectile capacity.

While most other less-lethal products are one dimensional, PepperBall offers a rock-solid solution in virtually any situation. The flexibility of PepperBall allows the same tool to be used in persuading someone out of an enclosed space like a bathroom, attic, or crawl space, diffusing one-on-one confrontations and managing riot or crowd-control situations.

PepperBall customer service is another aspect that our customers appreciate and applaud. The team at PepperBall understands its pivotal role in supporting the critical operations of law enforcement agencies. We are committed to providing prompt, reliable and comprehensive support. Our dedicated team of service professionals is always ready to assist, offering expert guidance and solutions tailored to the unique needs of each law enforcement agency.

We believe that our unwavering commitment to customer service not only enhances the effectiveness of our products, but also strengthens the trust and partnership we share with law enforcement agencies – contributing to their mission of maintaining public safety and order.

7. What is the most rewarding part of serving the first responder community?

According to Bob Plaschke, CEO of PepperBall, the importance of non-lethal options like PepperBall cannot be overstated: “Safer conflict resolution methods are not only possible but essential, and PepperBall is a game-changer. Using PepperBall is a win-win for all because there is the opportunity for everyone involved in a conflict to go home to their families.

“We are seeing agencies today reduce the number of SWAT callouts and the number of officer-involved shootings by employing PepperBall technology in day-to-day policing. Police departments are embracing PepperBall, which has been proven for over 20 years to be non-lethal, to quickly de-escalate situations and create compliance. Non-lethal PepperBall can defuse potentially volatile situations, safeguarding officers, and civilians alike, while aligning with a new era of policing that prioritizes de-escalation and restraint.”

8. Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety or the community? Tell us more.

PepperBall has fully embraced the National Fallen Officer Foundation, a non-profit that supports families of police officers killed in the line of duty. Supporting a foundation that honors officers who made the ultimate sacrifice is incredibly important and meaningful to our company’s mission. 

In addition, we provide resources to help locate grants for tools, equipment and resources to underfunded departments that would otherwise be unable to afford the use of PepperBall. 

9. Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share about your company?

  • Michael Varacins, PepperBall CTO, is a semi-professional racecar driver and is a seven-time SCCA National Champion in the competitive FV class and was awarded the SCCA President’s Cup in 2018.
  • PepperBall has been deployed in over 40 countries around the world.
  • The PepperBall quality team inspects every single projectile by hand to ensure it meets quality control standards. That’s more than 50 million projectiles inspected over the past 25 years! 


10. What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?

The team at PepperBall is always innovating and refining both our product and training channels. The training team at PepperBall has recently designed and launched an original series of scenario-based courses, specifically tailored for patrol and corrections personnel. These courses are thoughtfully crafted to teach practical de-escalation techniques, ensuring a safer and more effective response in challenging situations.

In addition to our educational advancements, we are equally excited about our innovative product launches. Among these, the PepperBall BLAST stands out as a game-changer. We believe this product addresses a critical need in the field and will complement the use of PepperBall in daily patrol operations. We eagerly anticipate its positive impact for our law enforcement partners.

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