The local Anvers police will not be the first to adopt FN 303 launchers able to fire paint balls or pepper spray projectiles, indicated its spokesperson on Monday, refuting information which appeared in Het Gazet van Antwerpen. “There has clearly been a misunderstanding, as it is not a question of a first, but of extending our existing arsenal,” he adds. “Our Special Crisis Response Team has been using this weapon for a number of years, in line with other police zones in Belgium.” The only innovation relating to these weapons is their capacity to be used by so-called “rapid reaction units” from September 1st. These units are special crisis response teams whose distinguishing feature is being able to immediately get to the scene of an incident involving, for example, people demonstrating aggressive behaviour, car chases or evacuations.
“The FN 303 weapons will be used, in very specific circumstances, to neutralise suspects without risk of killing them,” explains the police spokesperson, mentioning, in particular, domestic violence cases.
Moreover, there is no link between the creation of these rapid reaction units and the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris early this year, as Het Gazet van Antwerpen suggests. “If that had been the case, we would have provided for higher capacity equipment,” concludes the spokesperson.