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Ban on tear gas, rubber bullets to be introduced by Allegheny County leaders

PITTSBURGH — Several members of the Allegheny County Council are planning to introduce legislation further defining nonlethal weapons and banning the use of things like tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and bean-bag rounds.

Posted to social media by Council Member Bethany Hallam, the legislation says these devices “are generally regarded as less dangerous to their targets than firearms” but still “have some risk of causing death or permanent injury.”

To read the legislation, go to the Tweet embedded below.

The proposed bill says that things like tear gas use “in warfare is specifically prohibited by the Geneva Protocol” and that people with issues like asthma “are at an elevated risk of complications.”

The call for change follows the use of tear gas by police during protests that turned violent in East Liberty and downtown Pittsburgh.

“When we hear about the reason these tactics were used, it was used on full crowds of people. You cannot say that every person in that crowd deserved to have tear gas sprayed on them or rubber bullets pelted at their face," Hallam said.

A Pittsburgh police spokesperson declined to comment.

A source told Channel 11 Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus will also introduce a bill on Tuesday to hire a specialist in how police can effectively handle protests. It’s someone the city used during the G-20 summit in 2009.

“I think the situation in East Liberty really showed the urgency. We cannot wait to pass this legislation," Hallam said.

Seattle is one other city that has reportedly banned the use of tear gas. The city’s mayor said the police are not allowed to use it for 30 days after concerns were raised by civilian groups that it could increase the spread of the coronavirus.

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Former Pittsburgh police Chief Dom Costa said reform can be done by spending more money on training and evaluating recruits, but he’s strongly against taking away crowd control tools from officers.

“After they give the third order to disperse and you’re not permitted to use any of this stuff, the officers might as well go home," Costa said.

Hallam said she will introduce her bill during the Allegheny County Council meeting on Tuesday. Pittsburgh City Council has a meeting of their own and that’s where Kraus is expected to introduce his legislation as well.