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Seattle bans police use of tear gas for 30 days

Seattle police will suspend using tear gas for 30 days amid ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd and racial injustice.

Seattle police will not use tear gas for the next 30 days while a coalition of agencies reviews the police department's crowd management plan.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the policy during a news conference Thursday saying officers "do not need to be using tear gas at protests as a crowd management tool.”

“We need more dialogue between officers and protesters," Durkan said. "We need more communication on the front lines.”

During the temporary ban on the use of tear gas, Durkan said she would ask the city to work with several agencies, including the Office of Police Accountability, the Office of Inspector General, the Community Police Commission and the Seattle Police Department, to review and update the department's crowd management plan and give recommendations.

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Durkan urged the review to better emphasize de-escalation and include input from community on the use of tear gas and flash bangs.

During this time, SWAT teams will still use tear gas under the chief's directive to protect life and end standoff situations, according to Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

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The directive follows widespread criticism of the use of tear gas by police accountability groups and public health officials.

On Friday morning, the Seattle Community Police Commission released a statement saying all three of Seattle's police oversight agencies – the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General – recommend SPD stop using tear gas to disperse large crowds. 

"SPD has no department-wide policies on the use of tear gas. Police officers should not be deploying use of force tools for which they do not have policies and training. That is not how our system of police accountability works, nor should it," read the agency's statement. 

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Public Health of Seattle and King County also voiced opposition to the use of tear gas because of its ability to increase the spread of COVID-19.

“Seattle & King Co opposes the use of tear gas and other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread," Dr. Duchin said in a tweet Thursday night.

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