Albany officials comment on proposed tear gas ban

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A number of Albany officials have released a joint statement on the proposed tear gas ban currently being considered by the Albany Common Council. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Common Council President Corey Ellis, and City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar say they oppose an outright ban, but back extra restrictions on the use of tear gas.

The group point out that, although some members of the city’s policing collaborative urged the city to find alternatives to tear gas and other current non-lethal methods, no viable alternatives to tear gas were proposed.

They go on to argue that a total ban on tear gas would:

“Create a situation where should City Hall be attacked by armed insurrectionists, similar to what we saw at the US Capitol on January 6, the Albany Police Department will face the choice of doing nothing or using lethal force.”

According to the statement, Albany Police have only used tear gas twice in the last 32 years. Both of those occasions occurred last year, during the period of unrest that followed the death of George Floyd.

Officials claim the tear gas was used on May 30, 2020, and June 1, 2020, after “members of the Albany Police Department were assaulted with bricks, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks, police vehicles were damaged, a police horse was burned, and police equipment was stolen.” One officer is still recovering from injuries he received during that time period.

“We urge the Common Council to include commonsense amendments that will keep our community safe and address our shared desire to ensure tear gas is used only when absolutely necessary to protect against mass violence.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Common Council President Corey Ellis, and City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar

It is also claimed no other city or state in the US has adopted the measures currently being considered by the council. Albany has reached out to other mayors across the country to “find best practices with respect to the deployment of non-lethal force.”

“I do think it’s important to pass legislation but that legislation needs to include common sense amendments that will ensure we can keep out community safe,” says Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

In the statement, the officials expressed support for legislation that would restrict the use of tear gas. These measures include:

  • Restricting use to when a riot is declared, as defined by New York State law
  • Requiring a Police Chief or Deputy Chief to order its use
  • Requiring two notifications to the public in the immediate vicinity tear gas is about to be used
  • Requiring an EMT to be on-site prior to its deployment
  • Prohibiting its use in residential neighborhoods unless absolutely necessary to protect lives

The ban was proposed on March 24, 2021 by Council Members Doesschate, Conti, Farrell, Frederick, and Hoey. They argued that:

“There can be no doubt that tear gas has been used in the City of Albany in ways that have unfairly
and disproportionately adversely affected communities of color, including residents in their homes,
businesses, and innocent bystanders. The use of tear gas and kinetic energy munitions against residents that have the potential to cause short and long term serious health impacts should not be tolerated.”

“We’re hoping council members will discuss it further in Caucus on Monday before the meeting, and we’re hoping council members will see it as an opportunity to not just ban it all together,” says Corey Ellis, Albany City Council President. The council could vote on the legislation as early as Monday, April 19th.

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