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Columbus bans police from using tear gas for crowd control, limits use of pepper spray

Columbus bans police from using tear gas for crowd control, limits use of pepper spray
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Columbus, Ohio police will no longer be allowed to use tear gas for crowd control, Mayor Andrew Ginther (D) announced Tuesday.

“I’ve heard loud and clear from the people of Columbus that tear gas and pepper spray used indiscriminately with peaceful protesters is not acceptable,” Ginther said, adding that pepper spray will also be barred except in “clear instances of violence.”

“Tear gas will no longer be used to break up peaceful protests. Period,” Ginter added, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

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Police Chief Thomas Quinlan, meanwhile, will impanel 14-person advisory board to give members of the community input into development of policing practices and operations. The panel includes 10 black members, three white members and one Latino member.

“I’m learning the names today,” Quinlan said at an afternoon press conference, according to the newspaper. “Whatever they want to bring to the table is what we’re going to discuss.”

City Attorney Zach Klein said that under the previous rules, police were permitted to fire chemical agents at crowds for several possible reasons, including “for the sole reason of someone stepping into the street,” and that the new rules would make clear a person’s failure to move did not justify use of chemical agents.

“We get it,” Quinlan said. “We understand that the community’s expectations have changed.”

“The panel will act as a sounding board for me regarding community needs, concerns, and expectations, as well as provide community feedback to current and proposed police programs and priorities,” he added.

Ginther said that as protests spread throughout the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he believed protesters were the aggressors in Columbus the first two nights, but said that beginning on May 30 he witnessed police firing chemical agents “indiscriminately” on nonviolent demonstrators, and that the police response was “overly aggressive and inappropriate.”

City Council President Shannon Hardin, meanwhile, was one of several local African American protesters who was pepper-sprayed while dispersing from a downtown protest the same day, and said he could attest to the need for changing police tactics, “having experienced this firsthand.”