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Saturday, April 20, 2024
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MPD to investigate all future use of tear gas

While tear gas and similar weapons are still allowed, the Madison Common Council voted to require that police file a report the next time they utilize these weapons.

Madison police now have to file reports after using tear gas. 

Madison Common Council passed an ordinance during Tuesday’s meeting that requires the Madison Police Department to produce an after-action report following the use of tear gas, mace, impact projectile devices or other chemical agents for crowd control. 

District 8 Alder Juliana Bennett originally proposed to ban MPD from using tear gas and other weapons. According to the agenda, Bennett and District 10 Alder Yannette Figueroa Cole proposed the alternative ordinance to continue use but require reports on Tuesday. 

Bennett said she met with Police Chief Shon Barnes Tuesday morning to reach a consensus on what should be brought to the council. 

“This ordinance is about trust,” Bennett said. “Given we [Barnes and Bennett] want tear gas to be this last resort tool or weapon, it’s important for us to have a public review process to learn from this situation and become better.”

The city will hire an independent police monitor to conduct the investigation and share their findings with the council and the city’s Police Civilian Oversight Board, according to Barnes. The length of the investigation will depend on how long the incident was, but it is required to begin within 30 days of the incident.

Members of the Madison community weighed in at the meeting on the use of tear gas by Madison police, citing its use during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. 

Some residents said the use of tear gas is not effective at controlling the crowd and actually escalates the scene.

Gregory Geboski was at a protest reporting for WORT-FM when the police started using tear gas. He felt this was unnecessary because he did not think the protest escalated into a riot. 

“I saw nothing related to a riot,” Geboski said. “I saw a lot of angry people who were yelling at police.”

Other community members weighed in, pointing out how the Madison police don’t use tear gas often. 

“This is a tool our police have used responsibly,” Bonnie Roe said. “We should be proud to live in a city that has a progressive police department.”

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Several people spoke on the short and long-term health effects of tear gas, including reproductive and respiratory consequences. 

Bennett wrote a blog post expressing concerns about MPD violating safety regulations when using tear gas and the long-term effects on people and the environment. 

“Research indicates that chemical munitions not only flowed through protestors, but also through the protective gear of journalists, medics, legal observers, bystanders, the densely grassed urban landscape, and even entered the city's waterways,” Bennett wrote in her blog. 

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