Philadelphia City Council to vote on ban on non-lethal force against protesters

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia City Council's Public Safety Committee approved a proposal Tuesday that if signed into law would be among the first of its kind for a major US city.

The measure would effectively ban the use of non-lethal force against protesters.

That means law enforcement in Philadelphia would no longer be permitted to use resources like tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets when people are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Philadelphia City Council is now scheduling a full vote on the proposal some time in the near future.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw came short of supporting the plan during an online committee meeting, but she did admit that the scope and violent conclusion to the George Floyd protests in Philadelphia took the department by surprise.

"I don't believe we were expecting, I say we in the overall sense, we were expecting in the city the level of, I would say, demonstrations that we experienced," Outlaw said.

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The use of tear gas on demonstrators marching on I-676 days later was also a motivating factor behind the bill sponsored by Councilmember Helen Gym.

Gym said having a law like this in place would help re-establish the trust between the public and law enforcement.

"Our city must heal. And this healing requires us to look deeply into our actions, practices, expectations as much as we review our policies," Gym said.

But officials from the Fraternal Order Of Police said the only thing this proposal does is put public safety at risk.

FOP Vice President Roosevelt Poplar said the whole point of using non-lethal force for crowd control is to keep the public as safe as possible during a potentially dangerous situation.

"So, basically, you're taking away non-lethal munitions and you're leaving them with only one tool, and that's a deadly weapon tool, which is a gun," Poplar said.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia protesters gassed, maced on I-676 taking legal action
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Some protesters are taking legal action after a demonstration spilled onto I-676 in the heart of Philadelphia earlier this month, leading law enforcement to fire tear gas and use pepper spray in the middle of rush hour traffic.

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