More than 100 police agencies have withdrawn from security agreements to guard the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to be held next month in Milwaukee, citing the city’s recent directive banning the use of tear gas in responding to violent riots.
According to The Associated Press, Milwaukee’s citizen oversight commission last week ordered the city’s police department to change policies to ban the use of tear gas and pepper spray. The order came amid intense scrutiny of police tactics at protests in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.
Appearing on WTMJ-TV on Tuesday, July 28, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales revealed that since the order was issued, over 100 law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country decided to pull out of the agreements to send personnel to bolster security at the Democratic event in the city.
Morales explained that those police agencies were concerned with the directives placed on the police department, including not allowing tear gas or pepper spray.
Under the original plan, the DNC was to be held at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, with 1,000 officers on hand from outside agencies to assist with security. Though the convention has been scaled down to a mostly virtual event, with only about 300 people expected to attend in-person, police expect demonstrators to protest at the site, where former Vice President Joe Biden has said he will come to accept the party’s nomination.
“Our concern is that in the event protests turn non-peaceful,” West Allis Deputy Chief Robert Fletcher said in an email sent to the Journal Sentinel, “such a policy would remove tools from officers that may otherwise be legal and justifiable to utilize in specific situations.”
Tear gas and pepper spray are nonlethal, effective methods to break up unlawful protests and riots. Without them, police only have guns, Tasers, and nightsticks, all of which, if used, could cause serious injury or death to demonstrators.
Many Democrats have called for defunding or dismantling the police following the death of George Floyd when a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on the black man’s neck, triggering protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of the demonstrations have turned violent, forcing the police to use tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the rioters.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday criticized Attorney General William Barr over the use of pepper balls and tear gas to disperse a violent protest at Lafayette Park, according to Breitbart.