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City Council strikes down proposed ban on officers using non-lethal weapons

Posted at 7:17 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 00:08:00-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An ordinance that would ban Richmond Police from using non-lethal weapons against protesters was struck down by City Council Monday evening, officially killing the resolution.

In a 7-2 vote, City Council voted against RES 2020-R048 as recommended by the Public Safety Standing Committee two weeks ago.

The resolution would have prohibited officers in the city from using tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets on demonstrators.

The paper was drafted by Councilpersons Stephanie Lynch (5th Voter District) and Mike Jones (9th Voter District). The two were also the lone votes in favor of the resolution Monday.

Jones had called for a motion to revive his ordinance and allow for public comments, which would've required a yes vote by five councilpersons.

Lynch wrote in a tweet following the vote they would be bringing the resolution back before City Council after November 3rd, or Election Day.

Several councilmembers expressed concerns about the language of the ordinance.

"It’s difficult for me to not strike it as is. But, I do want to let people know I am interested in coming back with something relative to a student on this matter versus in out and out ban on these weapons," said 3rd District Councilman Chris Hilbert.

First District Councilman Andreas Addison also voted against the motion.

"I have several questions myself about the paper before it's even striken," Addison said. "For me, I want to make sure I understand if and when these types of non-lethal instruments are to be used -- what that looks like, how they’re held accountable for if and when those are done."

Kalia Harris, a prominent organizer and co-host of the Race Capitol podcast, called the vote "disappointing."

"We were hoping at least five of our representatives would be brave enough to have a public hearing," Harris explained. "We are genuinely concerned about the health of the city and the impact of these weapons."

The City of Richmond and Richmond Police are facing several lawsuits regarding the use of non-lethal weapons during the Summer.

"It has pretty severe health consequences, especially during COVID-19. It increases asthma rates and it effects the respiratory system," Harris stated. "We’ve spoken to people that were hit in the eye with rubber bullets and unable to work."

As of Monday night, Race Capitol also collected more than 1,250 online signatures urging City Council to approve the resolution.

"COUNCIL has the power to bring about change. They lacked the compassion to allow the public to speak about their concerns. That is not transparency. That is not leadership. This is undemocratic," Jones wrote in a tweet following the vote.

Dana Schrad, Executive Director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, defended the use of these types of weapons.

"The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police supports the inclusion of less than lethal tools in a police department’s use of force continuum when the response is appropriate and the officer is properly trained," Schrad wrote. "Agencies must have use of force policies and supervision in place. Eliminating less than lethal weapons increases the likelihood of lethal force encounters with the public."

Councilwoman Kim Gray voted to strike the proposal Monday and as a part of the Public Safety Committee two weeks ago.

“I do not support an absolute ban on non-lethal forces,” Gray told CBS 6 two weeks ago. “I agree that it removes options of non-lethal force and you immediately get to lethal force if there’s nothing on the table."