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Seattle council approves modified regulations for police use of less lethal weapons

Though still limiting their use, the new legislation is not nearly as restrictive as what was approved in June 2020.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a new version of legislation that restricts and regulates the use of less lethal weapons by Seattle police.

If given final approval, there will be an outright ban on blast balls and other devices such as "acoustic weapons, directed energy weapons, water cannons and ultrasonic cannons."

Tear gas would be regulated to use by SWAT officers only outside a demonstration or a rally. During a violent public disturbance, its use would be authorized if it is "reasonably necessary to prevent threat of imminent loss of life or serious bodily injury," and that risk outweighs the risk of harm to bystanders. 

Use of pepper spray would also be limited, with use having to outweigh the risk of harm to bystanders.

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40MM launchers used for chemical irritants would be limited to SWAT officers and only where use outweighs risk of harm to bystanders.

In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and local protests with heavy use of less lethal weapons, the city council passed legislation sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant that put tough restrictions, prohibiting use of less lethal weapons in many circumstances. 

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order under the Consent Decree, barring the bill from going into effect. 

The legislation underwent further review, before being brought in front of the council for a vote on Monday.

Though approved by the council, the proposed ordinance will not go into effect until it goes through further review. First, the Seattle Police Department will draft policy revisions within 60 days. The Department of Justice and Monitor for the Consent Decree will review the revisions before a federal judge does the same. If approved by a federal judge in court, the revised policies and provisions go into effect.