AURORA, Colo., (CBS4) – A trio of Aurora City Council members plan to propose two ordinances aimed at “de-militarizing” the Aurora Police Department and banning most uses of chemical weapons, such as tear gas.
Council members Juan Marcano, Alison Coombs and Crystal Murillo are behind the two ordinances, which will be introduced during the next Public Safety, Courts & Civil Service committee meeting on Sept. 10.
The proposals come after repeated clashes between APD officers and protesters, but council member Marcano tells CBS4 the changes were being discussed before that. For him, each ordinance addresses a different part of policing, but they would each help rebuild the community’s trust.
“This is a way that I think ties into the greater conversation that we’re having right now and will hopefully help change the culture of the institution,” Marcano said.
One of the proposed ordinances would prohibit the stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas. It would also ban non-targeted and large-scale use of pepper spray and other chemical debilitants, which Aurora police officers recently deployed during a protest in June.
“We had a number of people who were essentially bystanders caught up in the use of chemical weapons for crowd control,” Coombs said.
In a release about the ordinances, the council members stated, “there’s no justification for the use of tear gas on civilian populations,” and raised questions about health impacts, such as hormonal disruptions and miscarriages.
The ordinance would have an exception for the use of individual canisters, as well as small-scale use of some irritants.
“This is a non-targeted substance, so it impacts folks who have nothing to do with either violating orders or committing crimes, and I just don’t think that’s right,” Marcano told CBS4.
The other ordinance is aimed at limiting the department’s participation in the 1033 Program, a federal program that allows police agencies to procure military-grade equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense. Publicly available records show APD has taken in nearly 150 rifles and dozens of sights over the past two decades, as well as a mine resistant vehicle, MRAP, valued at $412,000.
“The militarized hardware — the weapons of war is what I like to refer to them as — are having a detrimental effect on community relations and are not really demonstrating any real gains in terms of reducing criminal activity or making officers safer,” said Marcano.
According to Marcano, the ordinance would not prohibit the procurement of shields, medical equipment, cold weather gear, firefighting apparatuses and other equipment necessary for life-saving measures.
A spokesperson for APD confirmed the department’s participation in the 1033 Program Sunday and released the following statement from Chief Vanessa Wilson:
“I do not want to comment on a proposed ordinance before it is introduced, however I do believe an educated discussion with council needs to occur about how these non-lethal tools protect the community as a whole and prevent the escalation of violent encounters.”