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Kansas City police suggest new strategies for protests

February 16, 2021 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police officers would limit their use of tear gas and work to reduce confrontations during public protests under a policy proposed Tuesday by the city’s police department.

The “First Amendment-Protected Activities” policy was presented Tuesday to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners for review. No action was taken.

The policy also would require officers to create a buffer zone between them and protesters and would prohibit officers from intentionally escalating tensions.

The proposal comes after police were criticized for their use of tear gas and other means to disperse crowds during social justice demonstrations last summer at the Country Club Plaza, The Kansas City Star reported.

Police Chief Rick Smith told the board he believed the proposals would serve the department and community well.

The policy also requires the department to minimize the use of armored vehicles, personal protective equipment or other displays of force if doing so does not endanger officers. An incident commander would continuously evaluate the demonstration to determine if officers’ presence is aggravating the situation.

Officers would be empowered to disperse crowds if they pose a potential danger to public safety or the destruction of property.

“If within their actions, they are going to give a more stand-down approach then I think that’s what it calls for because violence happens when they show up,” said Sheryl Ferguson, an organizer for It’s Time 4 Justice, who helped lead protests in front of police headquarters and on the city’s County Club Plaza.