- Associated Press - Thursday, July 30, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Richmond’s police chief has expressed his opposition to a proposed ban on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters and says he’s putting in place reforms on how officers can use them.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said at a virtual public meeting Tuesday that officers can be better trained in using the non-lethal weapons, WRIC-TV reported.

“I believe that we can get better at using these types of munitions and tools and resources,” WRIC-TV quotes Smith as saying. “I think that the training that we’re talking about needs to go a little bit higher in the ranks.”

Tear gas was used on a group of protesters demonstrating against racism and police brutality in the city last month.

The Richmond Police Department initially defended the use of chemical agents but retreated from that position hours later, saying in a tweet that officers who used the tear gas will be disciplined “because their actions were outside dept protocols and directions given.” The incident led to an outcry, and an apology from the city’s mayor.

If officers “haven’t been trained in the proper use of these weapons, then they shouldn’t have these weapons,” Jimmie Lee Jarvis, who attended the demonstrations, told the news outlet.

In some instances, the call to use the chemical agents was being made by officers who were not at the protests, Smith said.

“The decision making point was too far down into the rank,” the news outlet quotes Smith as saying. Now, Smith said he’s implementing reforms to “have trained command staff there on scene that actually makes the call” as to when and how to use non-lethal weapons. He told city leaders he will present the new policy for their review, the news outlet reported.

Richmond’s city council has not voted on the proposal.

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