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Seattle issues 30-day ban on tear gas at protests

Law enforcement officers move toward demonstrators during a gathering to protest the recent death of George Floyd on May 31, 2020 in Bellevue, Washington. Protests due to the recent death of George Floyd took place in Bellevue in addition to Seattle, with looting in Bellevue and at least one burned automobile there. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best issued an order banning the use of tear gas for at least 30 days at protests in the city following a request from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“SPD does not need to be using tear gas at protests as a crowd management tool,” Durkan said.

During those 30 days, Best said she is asking departments to review and update the Seattle Police Department’s crowd control policies and procedures.

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Durkan said the city needs innovative solutions to deescalate large events. Recently, the city started using a better sound system so the crowd could hear the police. According to feedback, protest organizers say they have been better able to understand what’s going on.

The mayor commended Best and her department for adjusting how they approach each situation and for avoiding escalation in recent days. The department has increased the physical distance between officers and protesters, and officers are doing a better job at communicating with protesters.

“The last two days have shown you can have very large protests and marches in different parts of the city and they can be conducted in peace and without any confrontations from police,” Durkan said.

Outside of WTO 1999, Best said Seattle has not used tear gas to manage crowds until Saturday, May 30.

Best said there was an incident in the early hours of Friday morning when two officers were injured after people started throwing rocks and bottles. One officer went to the hospital. However, officers demonstrated restraint and did not use force. Aside from this incident, the past few days of protests have been peaceful.

Best repeated her stance that the SPD will “meet peace with peace.”

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said there have been 12 emergencies related to protests in last 24 hours; 8 were medical, 4 were fire-related.

“I do want remind the protesters that if these things happen and you see people doing these things, please call 911,” Scoggins said.

He also reminded protesters to get tested for COVID-19.

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Neck restraints in Bellevue

Meanwhile, Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett announced Friday that the department is prohibiting use of neck restraints by “officers in circumstances where deadly force would not be justified.”

BPD said the use of neck restraints, also known as vascular neck restraints, has been a technique since 2009. The decision to stop this practice was made “with consideration given to the controversial nature of these types of techniques,” BPD wrote in a news release.

“As a department, Bellevue Police are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures to better serve our diverse community. We recognize that neck restraint techniques, while effective, are highly controversial and divisive,” Mylett said in a news release. “Until we can have additional conversations with the Bellevue community, I have decided to stop their use until further notice, except when the officer’s life is in danger.”

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