Seattle City Council passes police tear gas ban

SEATTLE — Seattle's city council on Monday unanimously passed a ban on police using choke holds and tear gas, following an uproar over how SPD used tear gas on demonstrators.

"Demonstrators have been grievously injured by these weapons," said council member Kshama Sawant, who proposed both bans.

On June 5, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a one-month ban on tear gas at protests.

Days later, when SPD said demonstrators threw objects at police, police chief Carmen Best authorized tear gas to be used again.

Last Friday, a federal judge found police used excessive force on peaceful protesters and violated their free speech rights.

The judge ordered a two-week ban on tear gas, pepper spray and foam-tipped projectiles.

As the council considered a ban Monday, concerns emerged from some of the city's police oversight officials about the scope of the legislation, and suggested that it should be further studied during the court-ordered pause.

Amy Tsai, the city's deputy inspector general, wrote that neither her office nor the Office of Police Accountability would oppose banning tear gas from demonstrations.

Tsai described the legislation as "significantly broader than tear gas, however, and concerns the banning of virtually all other less-lethal tools currently utilized by SPD."

In an email to city council members, director of OPA Andrew Myerberg wrote, "we caution the council to consider the long-term implications of its proposed ban as it could result in SPD being functionally unable to police large -scale riots or harm to people in the future or, in the alternative, would require them to do so with no tools other than batons and firearms."

Last week, Mike Solan of the Seattle Police Officers Guild offered a similar warning.

"Sadly, the only option that is available to us is physical interaction which unfortunately may lead to physical violence to community members and to my membership," Solan said.

Sawant responded to that argument saying the purpose of the legislation "is to prevent police from meeting protests with any violence whatsoever."

The federal court will now review the tear gas ban.

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