Instigator / Pro

Law enforcement officers should be forbidden from deploying stun grenades, except against a definite threat.


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Contender / Con

TOPIC: "Law enforcement officers should be forbidden from deploying stun grenades, except against a definite threat."

Please read these DEFINITIONS carefully:

"Law enforcement officer:" Any law enforcement officer in the United States of America acting within the scope of their official duty. This includes, but is not limited to: municipal police departments; county sheriff's offices; and federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). This debate is in the context of American law enforcement only, and, by virtue of its topic, is focused on paramilitary-style Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) teams.

"Stun grenade:" A grenade designed to induce temporary incapacitation by generating a burst of extremely bright light and/or extremely loud noise. Synonyms include "flashbang" and "distraction device." Any device designed or deployed with intent to produce similar incapacitation by similarly overwhelming the visual and/or auditory system(s) of persons in the vicinity of its activation would also be considered a "stun grenade" for the purposes of this debate. See the article in source [1] for a further definition of stun grenades, and the article in [2] for a specification of a typical model of stun grenade.

"Definite threat:" A situation where a reasonable law enforcement officer would be certain, or have strong probable cause to believe, that: (1) an immediate threat of death or severe injury exists to at least one person, including themselves; (2) deploying a stun grenade is a sensible option to resolve the situation with minimum total harm to persons threatened as defined in (1). Equivalently, this excludes situations where there is a mere suspicion or unverified possibility of a threat, or threats which a reasonable law enforcement officer would not determine poses a high risk of immediate threat of death or severe injury towards at least one person.

It is furthermore remarkable that stun grenades are frequently deployed by S.W.A.T. teams, especially while serving high-risk search warrants, when no definite threat exists. Pro considers such deployment pre-emptive and indiscriminate.


Round 1
Thank you to Con for accepting the debate. I will now present my case.

Danger of Needless Injury

Stun grenades pose a non-negligible risk of injury beyond the temporary incapacitation they are designed to inflict. See several examples from this ProPublica article [1]:

Dukes suffered second-degree burns across her body. When later asked to describe the pain she felt that morning on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the absolute greatest, Dukes said 100.
A prison guard in Nevada lost her hand when a flashbang exploded during a training exercise. And then, in 2002, an officer closer to Nixon’s home in Arkansas was injured. An Omni Blast exploded in the hand of Brandt Carmical, a North Little Rock police officer, as he conducted a flashbang demonstration for a local Boy Scout troop. It pulverized his right hand, blew out his right eardrum and perforated his left eardrum. “I saw all this flesh,” Carmical recalled. “I couldn’t hear anything.” At the hospital, Carmical’s hand was amputated at the wrist. Later, he had to go back for further surgery because black powder from the flashbang was causing his skin to rot.
If there was ever a flashbang injury that might have warranted criminal charges against an officer, it would be the case of Bou Bou Phonesavanh, a 19-month-old baby who last May was nearly killed by a flashbang during a drug raid in Georgia. The case garnered national attention. Bou Bou was sleeping in a portable playpen at the foot of his parents’ bed when the Habersham County Special Response Team broke down the door to the room and threw a flashbang. The grenade landed on a pillow next to Bou Bou’s face. The blast blew a hole in his chest, severed his nose, and tore apart his lips and mouth.
If those anecdotes aren't enough evidence that flashbangs are dangerous, then that same article gives us numbers:
A ProPublica investigation has found that at least 50 Americans, including police officers, have been seriously injured, maimed or killed by flashbangs since 2000. That is likely a fraction of the total since there are few records kept on flashbang deployment.
Using them in standard operations is excessive

Again from the ProPublica article, even a tactical officer agrees that stun grenades should be used sparingly:
David Pearson, who runs flashbang training sessions for the trade group, said in an interview that he urges caution. “Flashbangs do have their place,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s on every mission or in every room.”
Stun grenades were invented by the British Special Air Service, a special forces military unit despite its law enforcement activities, for its counterterrorism unit. [2] While this does not necessarily imply that their use cannot or should not be transplanted to less immediately dangerous circumstances, it does demonstrate that flashbangs were intended to be military-grade weapons for military-grade operations, and poses the kind of dangers expected of a military weapon.

Consider the psychological effect of flashbangs, not just the risk of physical injury. It is severe police brutality to expose innocent people to that by indiscriminately deploying stun grenades.

The slight decrease in danger does not justify the risk of injury

Some preemptive flashbang deployments may have protected law enforcement officers from death or injury, but if officers aren't willing to accept a slightly higher risk to themselves by subjecting those whom they are obligated to protect and serve to a lower risk of needless harm, then they are unfit to be civil servants. Law enforcement officers are called law enforcement officers because their duty is to enforce the law and benefit society while acting within the confines of law, not to make their job slightly less dangerous by any means necessary.

Round 2
I rest my case.