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Federal Judge Restricts Columbus Police Use Of Tear Gas, Other Less-Lethal Weapons

A Columbus Police officer aims a pepper spray cannister at a protester's face on May 30, 2020.
Katie Forbes

A federal judge in Columbus has granted an injunction prohibiting Columbus police from using non-lethal force like tear gas or wooden bullets on non-violent protesters.

In a lawsuit, protesters claimed police conduct last summer violated their constitutional rights, protecting free speech and prohibiting unlawful seizure. In the first paragraph of his order, Judge Algenon Marbley seemed to agree, describing “police officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok.”

The 88-page ruling lays out the protest’s timeline and numerous instances of police deploying tear gas, pepper spray and wooden munitions. Judge Marbley’s order sharply limits the division’s ability to use non-lethal weapons or tactics going forward on non-violent demonstrators.

It also prohibits police from using force indiscriminately and requires they display badge numbers and keep body cameras up and running.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.