SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Members of the San Jose City Council on Tuesday are discussing a proposal to ban the firing of rubber bullets during crowded protests.
The proposal is part of the continuing fallout from the George Floyd protests that happened at City Hall in May, in which several peaceful protesters and bystanders were injured by the potentially lethal rounds.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia has already discouraged the use of rubber bullets for crowd control in the SJPD duty manual, but Mayor Sam Liccardo said that does not go far enough to protect the public.
“The problem is they can’t be aimed very well. We’ve seen dozens of fatalities around the world using these devices, and they really shouldn’t be used around crowds,” Liccardo said.
San Jose Police fired rubber bullets multiple times into the crowds protesting at City Hall in late May.
Many of the projectiles hit nonviolent protesters and observers, including legal observer Shaunn Cartwright, who was struck in the leg.
Cartwright says being struck has had a lasting physical and emotional impact on her.
“Getting shot with a rubber bullet is shocking and painful,” Cartwright told KPIX 5. “You’re like, ‘I can’t believe they shot me.'”
In June, Liccardo proposed the ban, and a vote on the issue in August was postponed.
Garcia, the police chief, modified the duty manual to discourage their use in crowd situations but is strongly resisting the mayor’s plan to ban them.
In a letter to the council, Garcia said a ban would force officers to “choose between options that carry greater risk of injury to bystanders and officers,” or do nothing, which he said would be “unacceptable.”
Liccardo said there are alternatives.
“I think that’s a false choice, I think the police have many other intermediate and less than lethal weapons,” he said.
The police department also released it’s “After Action Report” on the San Jose protests, saying many officers were also injured by protesters who threw rocks and bottles.
But the report’s key findings are that officers had a lack of training and experience in large protests, there was insufficient police staffing, insufficient equipment and poor media relations. The report also prompted a call for police policies to be reviewed.
Cartwright said police actions contributed to an escalation of the situation, instead of diffusing it.
“Better training is the best thing that we can have, not better things to like, not quite kill people but maim them for life,” Cartwright said.