LAPD Rubber Bullets Restricted by Judge Ahead of Chauvin Verdict

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A federal judge barred the Los Angeles Police Department from using foam or rubber bullets on peaceful protesters as the city prepares for renewed demonstrations over the alleged murder of George Floyd.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall issued the temporary restraining order late Monday after a Black Lives Matter protest group provided video evidence of the LAPD firing 40- and 37-millimeter “non-lethal” rounds at nonviolent protesters and members of the press at recent rallies, resulting in serious injuries.

LAPD Rubber Bullets Restricted by Judge Ahead of Chauvin Verdict

The group, which protests police killings of Black people, sued the city last year over the LAPD’s crowd control tactics in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death on May 25 under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. That event triggered nationwide demonstrations, some of them attended by violence and property destruction. Chauvin’s trial concluded on Monday. The jury is deliberating.

The order temporarily bars LAPD officers from deploying the rounds unless they’ve been properly trained in their use, and only against protesters “who pose a threat of serious bodily harm.” The judge ruled that officers must give protesters verbal warnings and a “reasonable opportunity” to comply before firing. Officers are further restricted from aiming at protesters’ “head, neck, face, eyes, or spine” or at protesters’ upper bodies if they’re within five feet.

The evidence showed that the LAPD “used less-lethal munition on protesters who do not appear to be violently resisting or posing an immediate threat of violence or physical harm,” Marshall said. “There is a strong interest in preserving a person’s First Amendment rights, including the right of peaceful assembly.”

The LAPD’s press office had no immediate comment on the order when reached by phone Tuesday.

Lawyers for the city said in an April 15 court filing objecting to the TRO request that the LAPD has “no interest in stifling any protest or speech” but cannot “turn a blind eye to criminal behaviors.” The proposed rule for using less-lethal force is the same as the department’s existing rule for the use of lethal force, the city said.

“It cannot be that there is no difference between less-lethal and lethal force, and the situations in which each such force is warranted,” the city said. “The plaintiffs’ proposed order would hamper the Los Angeles Police Department and prevent the use of less-lethal munitions when lethal force is not warranted.”

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