Council Bans Use of Chemical Crowd Control Agents, Mayor Janey Expected to Sign It

On Wednesday, the Boston City Council voted 7-5 to pass an ordinance refiled by Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (District 5) and Andrea Campbell (District 4) that limits the use of chemical crowd control agents and kinetic impact projectiles. The measure now heads to the Mayor’s Office and must be signed in order to take effect.

Last December the Council voted 8-5 to pass a similar ordinance that was later vetoed by then Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Then Council President Kim Janey voted to pass the ordinance and is expected to sign it into law as Mayor once it reaches her desk.

After multiple hearings and working sessions, the Council has passed the ordinance for the second time today (7-5) with Councilors Arroyo, Campbell, Kenzie Bok, Liz Breadon, Lydia Edwards, Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu voting for it. The ordinance restricts the use of chemical crowd control agents and kinetic impact projectiles by law enforcement agents operating in the City of Boston. It particularly limits the use of these weapons against individuals engaging in protest, demonstration, or gathering with more than 10 people. Weapons in the ordinance include, but are not limited to, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and beanbag rounds.

This ordinance is one of several measures the Council is taking to increase accountability and transparency in policing. 

“Though I support an eventual complete ban of tear gas and kinetic impact projectiles. This is an essential first step,” Councilor Arroyo said. “These restrictions will protect the residents of Boston from indiscriminate, dangerous, and even fatal impacts of such devices, especially during lawful protests or demonstrations.”

“This demilitarization ordinance is a necessary piece of our collective action to ensure transparency and accountability in our policing,” Councilor Campbell said. “While I personally believe we should ban weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets from ever being used against civilians, ensuring that the City has a specific, transparent, restrictive policy to guide how and when they are used is absolutely necessary to protect our residents, including our police officers, from harm and injustice at large-scale events. I am proud to have partnered with Councilor Arroyo on this legislation since last Spring and to have passed an even stronger version of this ordinance today.”

Before deploying these weapons, a Boston Police Department (BPD) on-scene supervisor at the rank of Deputy Superintendent or higher must personally witness ongoing violence or property destruction and determine that no reasonable methods of de-escalation will be successful. In addition, the same on-scene supervisor must give two separate warnings at least two minutes apart announcing to the group that they must disperse, specifying which weapon will be deployed if they fail to disperse, and ensuring that the group has a way to exit.

Violations of the ordinance by any law enforcement member will be reported to oversight agencies and an annual report will be published by the City of Boston. The latest version of the ordinance also requires BPD to maintain, preserve, and produce body camera footage when these weapons are used.  BPD will have 90 days to ensure that the provisions of the ordinance are met.

The ordinance requires the Boston Police Department to inform law enforcement agencies operating in Boston of the provisions of the ordinance, as well as incorporate the limitations outlined above into officer training.

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