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Vote On Less-Lethal Weapons Ban In Richmond Delayed For At Least 60 Days

a line of richmond police officers stand in front of a cloud of tear gas
Richmond Police officers used tear gas and pepper spray during a protest on May 31. (Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond City Council’s Public Safety Committee declined to vote on a resolution asking the police to ban the use of chemical agents and rubber bullets on protesters.

At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, the three-member committee voted to continue the non-binding resolution to its next meeting on Sept. 22. Council members Reva Trammell, Kim Gray and Chris Hilbert said they did not want to move the resolution forward until an ongoing review of police conduct is complete. 

Before the continuance, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith asked the committee for time to develop written policies and procedures around the use of less-lethal weapons on protesters. Smith, who started his role as chief on July 1, also told City Council that when he arrived at the department he noticed that command-level officers did not have training on the proper use of less-lethal weapons and questioned their ability to make judgment calls without it. 

“What I am saying is give me time to actually put into writing some of the things I’ve put in place now, which is to actually have trained command staff there on scene that make the call as to when, how and how much is used when you have these types of situations,” Smith said.

The resolution calling for a ban on less-lethal weapons used by police is sponsored by Council Members Michael Jones and Stephanie Lynch. Both council members were tear-gassed last month while attending a protest. The nearly 60-day delay in voting on the resolution means it may have little impact on the current civil unrest in Richmond.

The City of Richmond and Richmond Police currently face multiple lawsuits after admitting to using tear gas on peaceful protesters on July 1 and pepper-spraying a man in his own home in late May.