Seattle mayor bans 1 type of tear gas amid protests

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A Seattle police officer yells out orders at Seattle City Hall as protesters march toward them Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Seattle, following protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE – The Seattle mayor has banned the police use of one form of tear gas as protests continue in the city and nationally over the killing of George Floyd.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a news conference Friday afternoon that the ban on CS gas would continue for 30 days. The move came hours after three civilian police watchdog groups urged city leaders to do so to build public trust and until the department adopts policies and training for the use of the chemical agent. Local health officials had also expressed concerns over the use of the gas and other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread.

“After hearing concerns about the use of CS gas for crowd control purposes earlier this week ... we decided we were going to suspend its use for 30 days,” Police Chief Carmen Best said.

During that time, the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety will review and update crowd control policies, including the use of pepper spray and deadly force techniques such as neck and choke holds, Best said. She and the mayor added that the ban could be extended if groups need more time for policy review.

SWAT team members who are specially trained can continue to use tear gas in the meantime in what she called “life safety” situations and only under her authority, Best said.

Protests Wednesday and Thursday were among the largest Seattle has seen in years. But authorities reported only minor problems following days of unrest in which police used tear gas and pepper spray and some people smashed windows and burned police vehicles.

Best said that rocks and bottles were thrown at officers during protests Thursday night but officers showed restraint. One officer was taken to a hospital for treatment after he was hit by an object, she added.

"I think the last two days have shown that you can have very large demonstrations in two parts of the city and that they can be conducted in peace and without any confrontations with police,” Durkan said.