The Minneapolis City Council on Friday passed a resolution asking state and local leaders to stop using tear gas, rubber bullets and other “less lethal” weapons to disperse crowds in the city.
The request comes three days before closing arguments in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. Many of the council members who spoke Friday said they were troubled by the tactics police used to disperse crowds in Brooklyn Center following Daunte Wright’s death this weekend and want to see a less violent response in Minneapolis.
The final decisions, though, will continue to rest with the people who lead the coalition of law enforcements agencies coordinating security plans surrounding Chauvin’s trial.
“This is not expected to direct the actions of our police department,” Council President Lisa Bender said of the resolution they passed overwhelmingly Friday. “But it’s intended to inform the mayor and the chief, who are the command authority over use of force in our city.”
State and local law enforcement agencies formed Operation Safety Net, a coalition of at least nine agencies, to coordinate plans surrounding Chauvin’s trial. They relied on some members of that group earlier this week to respond to protests in Brooklyn Center following the killing of Wright.
Each agency in the coalition has its own policies regarding use of force. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has said he will make decisions on when city police can use such tactics and will attempt to distinguish people peacefully protesting and those committing crimes.
All of the council members who spoke Friday said they were troubled by the way less-lethal weapons have been used over the past year and by the injuries they have caused, including fracturing skulls and blinding people.
“We know that they’ve been consistently misused,” said Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who added that he had never seen those tactics accomplish the goal of dispersing a crowd.
“They’ve always sort of bubbled into more chaotic situations and they’ve always created the atmosphere for folks to be … enraged,” Ellison said.
The lone vote against the resolution was Council Member Linea Palmisano, who said she too had deep concerns about the way such tactics were used in Brooklyn Center but didn’t want to discourage their use in situations where they were “absolutely lifesaving.”
She cited as examples two incidents from last year: one where officers used chemical agents to stop a group from throwing someone off a bridge, and another where officers used chemicals and a flash-bang grenade to rescue two people, including a stabbing victim, while a store was being looted.
In Minneapolis, the city’s charter gives the mayor “complete power” over the department’s operations. City Council members asked the city attorney’s office to provide an opinion by May 14 as to whether they have the authority to ban city police from using “less lethal” weapons.
Bender asked what it would take to change a city ordinance that allows the mayor to unilaterally declare an emergency — a prerequisite for a curfew — for 72 hours before requiring council approval.
The clerk’s office told her it would require a change to local codes.
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