The flashball known in French as the LBD or lanceur de balles de défense, has become a headache for the CRS, general reserve of the French National Police.
The weapon became disputed, especially with the Yellow Vest demonstrations for having caused numerous injuries. Now the use of weapon also worries its users. French broadcaster Europe 1 interviewed several CRS officers who say they are reluctant to use this weapon.
Their main arguments aganst it are the imprecision of the shots, the lack of confidence in the equipment and the fear of the consequences.
If no one in the police force has yet refused to use it, many are reluctant, for fear of seriously injuring someone. “It’s a bit haphazard luck, I’m not completely reassured when I use this weapon,” says one of them, nicknamed Serge for anonymity, on the radio.
“For a little over a year, this feeling of fear when using the flashball has been more and more present among colleagues,” confirmed another officer, referring to “the risk of ending up in criminal cases”.
This lack of confidence in their equipment also made Serge hesitate when he pulled the trigger, “because it was too far away, or because there were too many people around the target, or because it was too mobile”.
“When I’m pretty sure, or there is a good chance that my shot will hit my target, I shoot. But there is a third thing that I cannot do, because when I know that it will not hit the ‘goal’, there will be a problem,” he explained.
Several of Serge’s colleagues admit to having the same feeling. According to Europe 1, doubt about the flashball’s accuracy is not far-fetched, since in the test, between two identical shots, it was noted that there is at least… 14 centimeters difference on impact.
The radio also explained that the weapon is set to fire 30 meters from the target and that if, during an event, an officers happens to be 20 meters away, the point hit will be 15 centimeters above the target. Only, no indication of any distance is signalled by the weapon.
The second concern of the officers was the lack of training. Thus, flashball accreditation is obtained after only one day. All it takes is a simple presentation of the weapon, three practice shots and then five in front of an examiner – three of which should be successful – to be eligible.
Considering himself as “relatively good marksman”, Serge remembered his evaluation. With “[his] five shots allowed” he hit the target three times but “still wonders how he did it”.
“In good weather, by day, without stress, by firing directly at the chest, it [the projectile] hit the head”, he explained to Europe 1. In addition, this authorization is valid for three years and was even extended by a year in November 2017 for reasons of resources. Indeed, there are not enough trainers and this saves ammunition.