SEATTLE - A federal judge late Friday blocked Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using pepper spray, blast balls and similar weapons that was passed following confrontations with protesters.
The Seattle Times reports that U.S. District Judge James Robart at an emergency hearing granted a request from the federal government to block the new law, which the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month.
The U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons.
Robart said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before the change went into effect Sunday. Ruling from the bench, just before 9 p.m., Robart said the temporary restraining order he granted would be “very temporary.”
“I urge you all to use it as an occasion to try to find out where it is we are and where it is we’re going,” Robart said. “I can’t tell you today if blast balls are a good idea or a bad idea, but I know that sometime a long time ago I approved them.”
On Saturday, Chief Carmen Best said in a statement she encourages those protesting this weekend to do so peacefuly. She said officers will continue carrying pepper spray and blast balls in compliance with the judge's temporary ban, but said SPD promises they do not intend to use tear gas.
"In the spirit of offering trust and full transparency, I want to advise you that SPD officers will be carrying pepper spray and blast balls today, as would be typical for events that carry potential to include violence. This is consistent with existing policy and the Court’s order of early this morning. SPD promises the community that we will not deploy CS (tear) gas," said Best.
Best also said she looks forward to continued work with the community on "re-envisioning" how policing is conducted in Seattle.
Robart is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the city to address allegations of excessive force and biased policing.