Walsh vetoes bill restricting use of rubber bullets, tear gas

Proponents eye a new vote

Mayor Walsh on Monday vetoed an ordinance that would restrict how and when police can use tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, saying in a statement that he had legal concerns with the measure, and that he supported restrictions on the so-called “less lethal” equipment in the newly signed state police reform law.

“We strongly believe CCCAs [chemical crowd control agents] and KIPs [kinetic impact projectiles] are only to be used when absolutely necessary to prevent violence or riots so people can safely and peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” Walsh said. “This community policing principle is something our Boston Police Department is committed to ensuring, along with the appropriate conduct by officers.”

Walsh’s veto announcement came on the same day he signed an ordinance creating a new police watchdog agency.

City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo, who sponsored the ordinance restricting the weapons, said Walsh’s veto does not meet the moment. “I think that’s the bare minimum we can do, as far as giving a warning [that gives] time to disperse before using weaponry that can take a life, and the fact that it was vetoed is disappointing,” he said.

Police body cam videos recently released from the night of the racial justice protests on May 31 last year showed police using chemical spray on protesters as they tried to clear the crowd. In some of those moments, officers appear to issue warnings to protesters first, and at others, officers appear not to communicate that they intend to use their weapons.

City Councillor Andrea Campbell, a candidate for mayor who also sponsored the ordinance, pointed to those videos as the reason why the restrictions are necessary. She said in a statement that she’ll push for another vote to pass the legislation.

“Mayor Walsh’s veto to this legislation is a failure of leadership when this is an opportunity to establish clear restrictions on lethal crowd control weapons and greater accountability in policing,” she said. “Tear gas is deadly and banned by international law, and just last week, we saw body camera footage of Boston police indiscriminately pepper-spraying peaceful protestors.”

The City Council originally passed the ordinance by an 8-5 vote. To secure a veto-proof majority, proponents of the bill need to convert at least one other previously no vote to pass a measure that will withstand a veto.

With reporting from WBUR’s Hannah Chanatry and Simón Rios. This story was published by WBUR 90.9FM on Jan. 5. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.