On Friday, April 16, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution asking police to avoid using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “less-lethal” weapons to disperse crowds. They described their resolution as a “statement of values.”
Following the seemingly accidental shooting death of motorist Daunte Wright, the neighboring city of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was embroiled in violent demonstrations for the better part of a week.
3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to the city, where they used crowd dispersal techniques such as gas and non-lethal munitions on rioters.
According to the WesternJournal, Minneapolis Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said on Friday that he had never seen non-lethal force used to disperse a crowd and that the techniques had been “consistently misused” in the past year.
“They’ve always sort of bubbled into more chaotic situations, and they’ve always created the atmosphere for folks to be … enraged,” Ellison said.
According to the city charter, the mayor has “full control” over the Police Department’s activities. The City Council lacks the authority to order police officers not to use the tactics. The council requested an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office by mid-May on whether it has the power to prohibit less lethal firearms.
Law enforcement officials overseeing security measures will also make the final decisions.
Even though the resolution has no bearing on law enforcement’s choice in using such methods, Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey have slammed the council’s decision.
“I think that the City Council’s resolution action was both unhelpful and uninformed, but it also emboldens those individuals who … are here to strike harm and chaos and destroy our city,” Arradondo said in an interview.
According to Arradondo, police have used less-lethal weapons to save lives in the past. Officers used them to disperse a crowd and rescue a stabbing victim in the parking lot of a Target store that was being robbed during the unrest last year, he said.
“If you’re asking officers who are sworn to save lives, you’re asking them to go into an unruly crowd of hundreds, and you’re asking them to do that with just their gun on their side and a baton, I think it is reasonable to predict there’s a higher risk of the officer being injured or a community member,” Arradondo said.
Frey accused council members of waiting until the last minute to voice their criticisms.
“Right now, I’ll tell you the city does not need more bickering,” Frey said. “We need unity.”
Not to forget that this was the same body that led the national charge against police defunding, cutting the department’s budget by $8 million in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, only to see the Minnesota city become the land of 10,000 felonies.