by James A. Bacon
A House of Delegates subcommittee has passed a bill, the Best Equipment for Law Enforcement Act, that would ban law enforcement use of tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds. In a party-line vote, Democrats supported the bill and Republicans opposed it, reports the Virginia Mercury.
“It’s currently legal for police in Virginia to use chemical weapons against civilians that we don’t even allow our troops to use in warzones,” said Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the legislation. Rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, he said, “are known to pose significant risk of death and permanent disability.”
The wording of the HB 5049 bans the “use of kinetic energy munitions,” which include rubber batons, bean bag rounds, foam baton rounds, and plastic, wax, wood or rubber-coated projectiles. In a clause banning the use of tear gas, phosphene and other gases, the bill deletes a sentence exempting the use of tear gas by police officers. The bill also restricts the acquisition of surplus military equipment by law enforcement agencies.
Bacon’s bottom line: The principle argument against tear gas, rubber bullets and other nonlethal means of crowd control is that they can hurt people and cause injury.
Yeah, that’s right. Inflicting pain is the whole point. If a particular crowd control method doesn’t cause discomfort or pain, it won’t work!
Police need a spectrum of options for dealing with riots. We don’t want a binary choice of shooting the protesters or doing nothing. Police need alternatives that fit the circumstances. If the police are denied tear gas, rubber projectiles, beanbag rounds and everything else the bill proposes banning, what means does that leave them to disperse a violent crowd? Wade in with helmets, shields and swinging batons? Water cannons? Stun guns? Are those alternatives any less likely to cause injury? How long until those options are banned, too?
The proposed legislation may be inspired by the City of Richmond police deployment of tear gas to disperse a mob last June. Protesters said that the use of force was unnecessary and excessive. Fine. If police misuse tear gas or rubber bullets, discipline the officers or commanders in question. Oh, yeah, that’s what happened. Mayor Levar Stoney sacked the police chief after that incident.
It’s one thing to sympathize with the protesters and their causes — take down the statues, reform law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and so on. I can understand that. People have a right to protest. But riots are not OK. Burning, looting and smashing windows are not OK. If people engage in that kind of behavior, I have zero sympathy. They’re breaking the law, and they’re taking their chances. If they suffer a serious injury, it’s on them, not the police.
House Democrats also want to declare non-injurious assaults on police officers to misdemeanors, not felonies. These bills send a signal: Many House Democrats aren’t just on the side of the protesters, they’re on the side of the rioters.There are currently no comments highlighted.