Seattle Police Urged To Stop Using Blast Balls

Seattle Police Blast Balls

Police departments have a greater array of non-lethal methods for dealing with problems than ever before. Unfortunately, “non-lethal” doesn’t always mean “safe.” In Seattle, the cops are undergoing significant pushback after several protesters were injured by blast balls.

If you’re not familiar, blast balls are a sort of grenade made of rubber that, when detonated, releases an irritant - usually tear gas. When they blow up, they also cause a loud retort and a flash of bright light to disorient their targets. They’re most typically used to fragment large groups and frighten away “casual” rioters, allowing police to close in on and personally subdue the ringleaders.

They were deployed in Seattle during the May Day demonstrations in 2016 and 2016, but both years the use of the devices led to injuries in the crowd. Most notably, programmer Sam Levine had a hole blasted out of his face while filming the 2016 event. Now the Community Police Commission has issued a report urging the SPD to cease use of the devices entirely.

The Stranger has the rundown, including a damning account of the myriad injuries inflicted by blast balls in the last few years. For their part, the Seattle Police Department has contracted with Los Angeles-based Center for Policing Equity to evaluate their crowd control policies and provide recommendations, but local community leaders don’t think that’s going far enough.