The LSPD’s attempts to subdue crime in the city continue daily. Criminals with illegal weapons, narcotics, and other contraband continue to walk freely. However, when it comes to the LSPD’s use of force against violent criminals, is the LSPD taking a step too far? Specifically, is the LSPD’s use of tear gas a conventional means to incapacitate criminals? According to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the answer may shock you.
Police departments across the country have used tear gas as a means of subduing riots and other violent offenders for over a century now. However, just because a tactic has been in use for such a long time, does not deem it just.
Tear gas, formerly known as lachrymator agent, was first used by the French in World War I. In 1914, French troops launched tear gas grenades into the trenches of German military, rendering their vital organs irritated, and some blind. Chemist then made tear gas toxic, in an attempt to end the life of their adversaries.
However, in 1993, the Chemical Weapons Convention banned tear gas from use in military combat. Article I Section 5 of the convention reads, “Each State Party undertakes not to use control agents as a method of warfare.” Article II Section 7 later defines riot control agents as, “Any chemical not listed in a Schedule, which can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure.”
Which begs the question, why are LSPD officers still allowed to use tear gas? Article II Section 9 reads, “Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes… [is] not prohibited under this convention.” Legally, the LSPD are within their right at the moment to use tear gas. Ethically, however, why is it that tear gas may not be used on our enemies overseas, however here at home tear gas is used against our own citizens?
Even more concerning are the 60 deaths linked to non-lethal technology, including tear gas, between 1990 and 1995, according to the Federal Investigation Bureau.
LSNN spoke with LSPD Officer Russel Crane for some insight into the LSPD’s use of tear gas. Crane did explain he was not a member of the LSPD’s Public Relations Bureau, but freely commented on questions asked by LSNN’s Jimmy Cooper. Crane explained to LSNN that the frequency of use of tear gas varied, and was unable to provide a clearer estimate. When Cooper asked if Crane was aware tear gas is banned in chemical warfare, Crane dodges the question and instead explained, “We use tear gas tactically, not to harm any people and in most cases tear gas is needed to comprehend a suspect safely.” Cooper asked if the LSPD had caused any unforeseen deaths due to the use of tear gas in their line of duty, though Crane stated he would call LSNN back.
Should the LSPD continue to use tear gas in their line of work?