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100+ police agencies pull out of protecting DNC convention – here’s why

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (Marc Nozell/Flickr)
July 29, 2020

More than 100 police agencies have pulled out of an agreement to provide security for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wis., citing concerns about the city banning the use of tear gas for crowd control.

A citizen oversight commission for Milwaukee made the decision to ban tear gas last week. Between the time the commission reached that decision and Tuesday afternoon, more than 100 police agencies withdrew from the agreement to provide officers for the political party convention, The Associated Press reported.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales indicated the security plan originally called for around 1,000 officers to assist with security at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee during the Democratic convention scheduled for August 17 – 20. With the number of police agencies withdrawing from the security plan, Morales said utilizing the National Guard or enlisting federal assistance is now under consideration.

The security plan appears to be falling through amid widespread calls to defund police and other reforms surrounding the police use of force.

Other cities throughout the country have also discussed the banning of crowd control measures like tear gas. The Seattle City Council recently enacted a ban on tear gas and other crowd control munitions like pepper balls, however, a federal judge blocked the rule from going into effect, pending further review of the crowd control measures.

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U.S. Attorney Christina Fogg argued that Seattle’s ban on crowd control measures would leave police with only “batons, tasers and handguns” for which to respond to crowds and said, “we are setting up a situation where there is a very increased likelihood of excessive force being used.”

Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb shared similar concerns about the limits on crowd control measures as he described his department’s decision to pull out of the Milwaukee convention security agreement.

“In this particular case, we strongly disagree with the actions they’ve taken,” Lamb said. “We believe (that) in removing those tools, the use of chemical irritants or pepper spray, from the available resources that the law enforcement officers would have at their disposal if protests become non-peaceful would severely compromise the safety of the public and also the safety of the law enforcement officers who would be assigned to protect the DNC.”

The DNC has also scaled down its convention plans due to the coronavirus pandemic, and has prepared for a reduced crowd size of around 300 people attending in-person. Much of the convention is expected to be virtual, though the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he plans to be in Milwaukee to accept the party nomination.