Indianapolis police settle suit, put limits on tear gas use

October 29, 2020 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has agreed not to use tear gas and other “riot control agents” during peaceful protests to settle a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in June on behalf of Indy10 Black Lives Matter and three individual protesters after IMPD used chemical irritants, pepper balls and batons against protesters in downtown Indianapolis on May-29-31. Violence and vandalism occurred that weekend, but the protesters who sued IMPD say they and many others remained peaceful.

IMPD agreed not to use “riot control agents,” including chemical agents, during peaceful protests or in response to “passive resistance,” ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said Thursday during a virtual news conference.

The settlement also prohibits the use of chemical agents to deter protesters from going to another location or because there are unlawful activities elsewhere, The Indianapolis Star reported. It also limits how chemicals are used in crowds, requiring police to ensure that everyone in a crowd can hear calls to disperse and announce before chemical agents are used.

The settlement still allows for IMPD to use riot control measures in certain circumstances such as when there is imminent threat of serious injury or death.

“We are not in any way saying the First Amendment extends to the violence that occurred later in the evening on those dates,” Falk said. “And this agreement in no way constrains the ability of the police to respond” to such violence.

The settlement is a recognition of the importance of First Amendment rights and “is extremely significant,” Falk said.

“I appreciate the willingness of the city to engage in discussions with us and to reach this agreement,” he said.

In a statement, IMPD said the settlement “reaffirms” its “commitment to being responsive to how our community wants us to serve,” adding that the tactics recommended by ACLU were already part of training, but now they’re in writing.

“It is our hope that this agreement brings us one step closer to healing the division in our community and building the types of police-neighborhood partnerships that reduce violence and create a better Indianapolis for all to enjoy,” the statement said.

Indy10 Black Lives Matter said in a statement that “demonstrators in mourning deserve safe and secure places to gather without state-sanctioned violence, especially prematurely and without provocation.”