As Marty Walsh leaves, Boston councilors reintroduce tear gas ordinance he vetoed

City Councilors are taking another crack at limiting the Boston Police Department’s usage of tear gas and rubber bullets — a proposal Mayor Martin Walsh vetoed two months ago, but acting-mayor-in-waiting Kim Janey voted for.

City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Ricardo Arroyo have reintroduced their proposal to cut down on what they deem a “Kinetic Impact Projectile or a Chemical Crowd Control Agent.” That includes the likes of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets — though it only applies to people “engaged in a protest, demonstration, or other gathering of any kind involving more than ten persons.”

The ordinance carves out narrow exceptions, saying someone ranked deputy superintendent or higher who personally sees violence or looting going on can authorize the use of these tactics, but only after two warnings over a loudspeaker.

“I’m excited to refile this legislation because it is absolutely necessary that the City of Boston codify a specific, transparent, restrictive policy that will guide how and when chemical agents and other crowd control weapons can be authorized, and so that they are rarely, if ever, used on our residents,” Campbell said in a statement.

She added it’s an “important piece of the work to establish accountability and create greater transparency in policing, and if we want to make the Boston Police Department a national model in policing, then we need to operate with the most transparent, accountable, and just policies.”

They first introduced the move in mid-June as protests raged nationally and in Boston following several high-profile police killings of Black people nationally — and after the night of rioting May 31, during which police officers did use tear gas to try to break up crowds.

The council in December voted 8-5 to approve the measure over the heavy objections of the police department, which said this could seriously limit the ability of police to deal with dangerous situations created by unruly crowds. But the bill didn’t make it into law, as Walsh vetoed the measure at the start of January.

Though now as Walsh prepares to leave his position to become Labor secretary and City Council President Kim Janey, who voted in favor of the proposal in December, prepares to take the reins as acting mayor, the bill might meet a different fate.

The councilors are introducing it Wednesday, which means the soonest they could vote on it is next week — at which point Walsh might already be gone. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote to approve him within the next two weeks.

Police officers opposed the proposal the first time around, and that feeling hasn’t changed.

One police source said, “In light of what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the fact that any elected official would be looking for ways to make it harder for cops to control crowds absolutely defies logic.”

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