Amid Police Reforms, Few Move to Ban Tear Gas

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As legislators across the U.S. propose policing changes, one issue has been a sticking point: bans on police using tear gas against protesters, reports Stateline. Dozens of law enforcement agencies have used forms of tear gas on protesters marching against police brutality since the killing of George Floyd. Over that time, many police chiefs have supported legislation to improve their work. As for bans on tear gas to quell crowds of protesters, from a police perspective, that’s not going to fly. While lawmakers in at least nine states have introduced bills that would ban or limit the use of tear gas by police, many of the measures have been rejected or softened.

In Oregon, legislation to ban tear gas passed after it was amended to give an exception for riots. In Michigan, the chair of the state House Judiciary Committee doesn’t want to take up a bill to ban chemical agents. He said it would hamstring police. In California, the sponsor of a tear gas ban said she purposely avoided getting input from police, expecting they would not be in favor. Police say outright bans are a step too far and cut out an important, less lethal way of controlling violent crowds. “What if we didn’t have gas? What would our alternative be?” said Jim Ferraris, president of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and former police chief in the state’s two biggest cities, Portland and Salem. “Our alternative is physical force.” Advocates of prohibiting tear gas refute that notion. “If you’re using tear gas on people sitting peacefully, if you’re firing rubber bullets into a crowd that is yelling angrily … it creates violence when none exists,” said Rachel Moran, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis who studies police accountability.

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