Police are aggressively using flashbangs, a $50 device used to disorient suspects, often during drug raids, ProPublica reports. Designed nearly 40 years ago to help military special forces rescue hostages, flashbangs create a bright burst of light and an ear-splitting boom that temporarily blind and deafen anyone standing within a few feet of them. French special forces used flashbangs as part of a dramatic operation to free hostages held at a kosher supermarket in Paris last week.
When these modified hand grenades explode on the human body, they can cause severe injury or death. The flash powder burns hotter than lava. ProPublica describes a Georgia case in which a woman suffered second-degree burns across her body. The 2010 raid in which the flashbang was used uncovered a tenth of an ounce of marijuana. The Clayton County police, who burned the woman, deployed flashbangs on about 80 percent of their raids in the year prior to her injury. Police argue that flashbangs save lives because they stun criminals who might otherwise shoot. ProPublica found at least 50 Americans, including police officers, who have been seriously injured, maimed or killed by flashbangs since 2000.