SACRAMENTO – Police projectile weapons and chemical agents can cause serious harm to people if used improperly or indiscriminately into a crowd. Despite being considered as “non-lethal” or “less lethal” tools, California does not have clear, minimum statewide standards for the usage of these weapons.
On Tuesday, Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s Assembly Bill 48 to prohibit any law enforcement agency from using kinetic projectiles, chemical agents and tear gas to disperse any peaceful assembly, protest, or demonstration passed the Assembly on a 43 – 17 vote.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen and heard from countless peaceful protesters, journalists, and bystanders who have all been seriously injured by rubber bullets and chemical agents at large demonstrations,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “AB 48 protects an individual’s right to safely protest without risking life-threatening injury by creating much-needed standards to regulate the use of these dangerous weapons.”
In numerous demonstrations over the past year, law enforcement agencies have deployed weapons like kinetic projectiles (rubber bullets, beanbags, and foam rounds), and chemical agents (tear gas, pepper balls, and OC spray) to control crowds. But the use of these so-called “less-lethal” weapons have caused serious bodily harm, including broken jaws, blindness, traumatic brain injury, and ruptured testicles.
Grandmother Leslie Furcron says she was injured after attending a protest against police brutality in La Mesa in 2020. Furcron was there for only about seven minutes before she was shot in the head by a police officer with a bean bag round.
“I will never forget the pain in my head – it felt like I was on fire,” Furcron said. “I was bleeding, lying on the ground, and the round was lodged in my forehead.”
Thankfully, she says, other protesters helped her up and drove her to the hospital where she was treated for her injury. She remained in the hospital for nine days.
AB 48 requires officers to be trained on the safe use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents for situations where any person’s life is threatened, or they are at risk of serious injury. In those instances, officers would be required to issue verbal warnings and expend other de-escalation tactics first, and may not aim at the head, neck or other vital organs.
AB 48 also requires law enforcement agencies to report any use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents that resulted in an injury to the state Department of Justice.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez