New Orleans sets policy after tear gas is used on protesters
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Police Department has set a new policy saying that tear gas and other specialized weapons should only be used as a last resort when life is in danger, the department’s leader said Monday.
The change was made after an internal investigation found “failures” occurred June 3 when New Orleans officers used tear gas and shot foam pellets and rubber balls at hundreds of people on the approach to the Crescent City Connection bridge, Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said. People were protesting the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in the custody of Minneapolis police.
“What started as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated into civil unrest prompted by a few instigators encouraging the crowd to cross the bridge,” Ferguson said a letter released Monday. “In response to some protesters’ acts of violence, our officers deployed tear gas, foam impact rounds and stinger rubber balls to address those disrupting protesters. Unfortunately, impacts were suffered by several peaceful protesters and several of our officers.”
Protests sparked by the death of Floyd were held in May and June in New Orleans and were largely peaceful. The issue of police abuses has long resounded in New Orleans. The deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 led to federal investigations and court-ordered reforms.
Ferguson wrote Monday that the police department did not have a policy to guide officers’ response to the protests June 3.
“There was a lack of planning and tactical decision-making, which resulted in an unprecedented incident that had never occurred in the city of New Orleans,” he wrote.
Ferguson told the City Council days after the confrontation that 100 to 200 protesters tried to force their way through a roadblock on the bridge. Council members at the time pushed back against Ferguson’s insistence that tear gas was appropriately used.
Ferguson said Monday that some officers have undergone training to respond to protests and civil unrest.
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