Philadelphia

Philly Police Commissioner Changes Use of Force Policy After Tear Gas Is Used on Protesters

“As such, we have temporarily implemented a modified process. Effective immediately, and until notified otherwise, all uses of force must be reported via Police Radio, to ensure we can properly defend our actions when we are ultimately challenged.”

NBC Universal, Inc.

A day after Philadelphia police officers used tear gas on protesters who were marching on the Vine Street Expressway, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw sent a memo calling for all officers to report use of force through police radio. 

“Along with the need to protect our officers, I understand that we will need to use reasonable force to protect ourselves and others,” Outlaw wrote in the memo, which was sent to NBC10 by a law enforcement source. 

“As such, we have temporarily implemented a modified process. Effective immediately, and until notified otherwise, all uses of force must be reported via Police Radio, to ensure we can properly defend our actions when we are ultimately challenged.”

Outlaw also gave officers guidance on collecting evidence to support their “actions, as well as successful prosecutions going forward."

“It is not realistic to collect all evidence,” Outlaw wrote. “But I need you to collect and preserve what is available at the time of the incident.” 

In a news conference Tuesday, Outlaw said the decision to deploy tear gas and white smoke on protesters on I-676 on Monday was made by the incident commander on the ground, whom she did not name. The decision apparently came after a State Police patrol car was being rocked back and forth, though it wasn't clear where that happened.

"When folks run up on a freeway, at that point, it's not deemed peaceful," Outlaw said. "There's moving vehicles, they can get hurt, people in the vehicles can get hurt."

"You have to make decisions as it occurs," she added. "I'm not going to Monday morning quarterback, but I can tell you it's very clear guidelines around our use-of-force policy."

Kenney and Outlaw also elaborated on injuries to police.

"We have officers that have been hurt with Super Soakers filled with bleach, squirted in their eyes," Kenney said. "Bricks being thrown through police car, windows where the glass shattered and embedded in an officer's eye."

Outlaw’s memo also addressed reports that Philadelphia journalists covering the ongoing George Floyd protests were arrested by police. 

“I want to remind all officers that the 1st Amendment addresses individual free speech; and while we cannot restrict the press from reporting or taking photos in public venues, we must grant them reasonable access, unless extenuating circumstances exist,” Outlaw wrote. 

“I understand it is often hard to define the “press,” but, it is our responsibility to be as accommodating as possible to those members of the press, even when we have a curfew.  If you are uncertain about who is considered to be a member of the press, contact a supervisor for directions. Please remember, the press are not only entitled to access, they have a right to it.”

After Monday's arrests and overnight looting, Tuesday's protests were peaceful for the most part, with demonstrators marching to Independence Hall.

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