OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A federal judge has temporarily placed limits on the Oakland Police Department’s use of tear gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets on protesters.
Thursday’s order from Judge Joseph Spero comes amid a lawsuit over the department’s use of the devices during recent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police and demonstrations against racial injustice.
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until a hearing scheduled for July 2nd.
An Oakland Police spokesperson told KPIX 5, “The parties agreed to specific guidelines regarding the judicious use of chemical agents and firing projectiles in managing threats to public safety that arise during certain gatherings.”
At the statewide level, a group of lawmakers at the State Capitol were seeking regulations on when police could use rubber bullets.
Earlier this month, a group of Oakland City Council members had called for an indefinite suspension of the use of tear gas for crowd control during protests.
In the letter, City Council members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Rebecca Kaplan and Sheng Thao argued that the use of tear gas could needlessly put people at risk for respiratory issues amid a pandemic that can cause significant respiratory damage.
The three council members also noted that the department’s own training bulletin states that breathing tear gas can cause coughing and sneezing, both of which can spread the coronavirus via droplets.
“The use of tear gas for crowd control adversely affects individuals in crowds of protesters as well as residents who are not involved in protesting, and it can have serious effects on medically vulnerable people and increase the spread of COVID-19,” Bas, Kaplan and Thao wrote.
Public health officials have cautioned against the prevalent use of tear gas in recent days as law enforcement officers have used the chemical agent to disperse people protesting police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd in the Minneapolis Police Department’s custody.
The three council members also requested answers from city and law enforcement officials about when, why and how gas is deployed during protests, what restrictions are in place for tear gas use and how the Oakland Police Department ensures that other agencies assisting in crowd control follow the department’s best practices for tear gas use.
“Tear gas has been banned for use in warfare, but is legal for police to use in the U.S. Yet, experts say it should be a weapon of last resort for crowd control and for addressing violent behavior of specific individuals because it affects everyone in the area including peaceful protesters,” the council members wrote in the letter.