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Monday, December 06, 2021

Public Safety Review Committee renews call to ban tear gas

The City of Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee (PSRC) reiterated its support for the Common Council to ban the use of tear gas by the Madison Police Department (MPD) Wednesday night.

The PSRC, which is intended to act as an intermediary between the Madison community and local government, renewed its recommendation that MPD officers be disallowed from using teargas. The committee initially called for a ban of the chemical agent on September 16th after it was used by police to intervene in several protests that occurred over the summer. 

The PSRC additionally voted in a 4-2 decision to recommend that the Common Council place a report about MPD’s use of tear gas on file, meaning that alders would decline to acknowledge the contents of the document.

The report, which was initially commissioned by the Common Council this past August, details the usage of chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) gas by MPD officers from 1990 until the present.  

The report says that usage of tear gas has been “very infrequent” with only 11 incidents when the chemical agent was deployed. However, it counts the past summer’s racial justice protests as one incident. In total, MPD used 140 canisters of CS gas in the time covered by the report, 62 of which were deployed during the summer unrest. The report also details that tear gas was primarily used in cases of barricaded suspects where it has been “critical” to resolving dangerous incidents. 

“[Tear gas] has been critical to successfully resolving those instances in which it has been used, and has allowed MPD to safely resolve extremely high-risk incidents without injury,” the report states. “Other options available to resolve these situations are not effective, are not appropriate, or are likely to cause injury.”

Matthew Mitnick, a member of the PSRC and a UW-Madison student, voiced his belief that the common council should instead take into consideration the demands of local organizations such as Urban Triage and Freedom, Inc. whom have advocated for a ban on tear gas since unrest began this past summer. 

“It’s our job to listen and take a stance on behalf of the community,” Mitnick emphasized in an interview with The Cap Times.

Other members commented on the importance of presenting the report to the common council in order to take action as soon as possible.   

PSRC Chair Brenda Konkel voiced that the council should acknowledge the report and take immediate action, rather than waiting for the arrival of an additional report regarding the MPD’s use of tear gas currently being compiled by the non-profit organization, the Quattrone center.

“Someone has to dig into this info,” Konkel stated according to The Cap Times. “We can wait until the Quattrone report comes out or we can start now with the work.”  

According to Assistant Chief of Police Victor Wahl, the Quattrone center’s report won't be available until the upcoming summer at the earliest.

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