LOS ANGELES - A federal judge Monday issued an order restricting the Los Angeles Police Department's use of "less lethal" 40-millimeter and 37-millimeter projectile launchers against crowds at demonstrations.
In her order granting Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles's request for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall noted an increase in reports of LAPD officers pushing, striking and firing less-lethal weapons on crowds of protesters, including media covering demonstrations, without a dispersal order being given.
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In her ruling, the judge ordered that:
- the LAPD is restricted from using 40mm and 37mm projectile launchers in public demonstrations except by officers who successfully completed training and meet all annual qualification requirements on the weapons;
- an officer may use 40mm less-lethal munitions only when the officer reasonably believes that a suspect is violently resisting arrest or poses an immediate threat of violence or physical harm. The use of 40mm less-lethal munitions should be preceded by a warning, if feasible, consistent with LAPD tactics directives;
- an officer may use 37mm less-lethal munitions as a crowd control tool with the prior approval of the incident commander and only when a dispersal order has been issued, unless immediate action is necessary to stop violence, to ensure public safety and restore order. A warning to disperse must be given, consistent with all of the dispersal order requirements set forth in LAPD's tactics directives, and then the officer may fire the 37mm at the ground 5 to 10 feet in front of the crowd. The 37mm may not be used against specific protesters unless absolutely necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury to the officer or others;
- the 40mm launcher must not be used to target the head, neck, face, eyes, kidneys, chest, groin or spine of a person; and
- the 40mm and 37mm launchers should only be fired at a distance of 5 feet or greater from another person, unless an officer or other person is attacked and there is a threat of imminent serious harm.
Marshall first restricted police use of the weapons last month, and halted the LAPD's use of the 40mm and 37mm weapons in public demonstrations except when deployed by officers that are properly trained. She also restricted police from aiming the weapons at the upper bodies of demonstrators at close range within 5 feet.
The judge further ordered in April that the LAPD must give a verbal warning to disperse, consistent with the department's use-of-force directive, and allow protesters a reasonable opportunity to comply before deploying the launchers except when an officer is attacked.
LAPD said it would comply, and the city requested that the judge modify her order restricting the use of projectile launchers ahead of anticipated May Day protests.
The judge revised her April restraining order, allowing police to fire 37mm hard-foam projectiles at the ground in front of protesters after declaring a gathering unlawful and issuing a dispersal order. The LAPD then said it was putting its 37mm projectile launchers back in service at public protests.
The new order gives clear directives for use of the weapons at public demonstrations.