Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia City Council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously voted to ban the city’s police force from using any form of less-lethal munitions during protests, demonstrations, “and other first amendment activity.”
The council announced the committee’s decision in a press release on Wednesday.
The proposal, which was introduced by City Councilmember Helen Gym, will now be scheduled for a full council vote, WPVI reported.
If approved, Philadelphia law enforcement officers will be banned from using pepper spray, less-lethal projectiles, tear gas, and other munitions to help quell violent demonstrations.
“We chose a public process of listening, of truth telling, of accountability, driven by the voices and experiences of the people we serve,” Gym declared in the council’s press release. “In banning the police use of less lethal munitions in response to demonstrations, we are answering the calls of our constituents.”
Gym touted the proposal as a way to repair “trust between our residents, public officials, and police.”
“Residential neighborhoods are not warzones. Demonstrators are not enemy combatants,” she said. “This is a first step in working with our communities to build a new model for public safety that is driven by their needs and their vision for the future.”
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Vice President Roosevelt Poplar said that prohibiting law enforcement from using less-lethal tools in their efforts to de-escalate dangerous situations will accomplish the exact opposite of what the city council has intended, WPVI reported.
“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 pointed out.
The push to bar officers from using tear gas and other less-lethal tools increased after Philadelphia police utilized them to help disperse rioters who were blocking an interstate in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The response from police during these protests pushed a further wedge between police and the citizens they serve,” West Philadelphia resident Monica Allison told the committee, according to the press release. “It is my hope, and the hope of the residents of West Philadelphia, that police are held accountable for actions that further damage the very fabric of this city, and this legislation is one step in the right direction.”
The Leadership Conference Education Fund Policing Campaign Director Lynda Garcia said that the ban would help to “ensure that all people’s constitutional rights are respected,” according to the press release.
“Local leaders must engage and work with communities to develop solutions to social and public health challenges and to shrink the footprint of the criminal legal system — including police — in Black and Brown people’s lives,” Garcia declared.