Boston city councilors urge Marty Walsh to OK restrictions on police use of pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets

Eight Boston city councilors and two members of the State House delegation are urging Mayor Martin Walsh to sign an ordinance that would heavily limit the Boston Police Department’s use of pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets.
This push from the councilors comes as BPD body-cam videos recently surfaced from the department’s response to protests earlier this year. Clips from the body-cam videos show officers pepper-spraying protesters who have their hands raised.
“The accompanying video footage is deeply disturbing and shows the need for the regulations this ordinance provides,” the eight councilors and other officials wrote Walsh on Monday.
“Had this Ordinance been in place during those demonstrations, there would have been clear regulations preventing these documented abuses,” they added.
The City Council last week voted 8-5 to approve restrictions on the use of chemical agents, like pepper spray and tear gas, and kinetic means including rubber bullets on protesters.
The ordinance was authored by Councilors Andrea Campbell and Ricardo Arroyo, who signed Monday’s letter. The six other councilors who voted yes were also on the letter — Michelle Wu, Kim Janey, Julia Mejia, Lydia Edwards, Liz Breadon and Kenzie Bok.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Rep. Russell Holmes and Suffolk County Register of Probate Felix Arroyo also signed on.
They wrote that these weapons have caused life-threatening injuries, including blindness, post-traumatic stress disorder, blunt-force trauma and even death.
“An important point of concern is the fact that (chemical crowd control agents) and (kinetic impact projectiles) are indiscriminate weapons,” they wrote in the letter. “The very nature of these weapons is such that the effects cannot be contained to targeting only a particular group of individuals.”
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The council vote came over the heavy objections of the police department, which says the new rules could seriously limit the ability of officers to deal with dangerous situations created by unruly crowds.
Councilors Frank Baker, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn and Matt O’Malley all voted against the measure.
The videos, released in a report by The Appeal on Friday, prompted an internal investigation by Boston Police and another by Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
The Boston Police Patrolman’s Association in a statement Saturday criticized the video release as “contextually deficient video snippets,” that did not portray the dangers officers faced that night.

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