Ban the Inhumane Use of Rubber Bullets on Protesters in Sonoma County

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https://tinyurl.com/y9v3lo35 <-- Use this link to send a pre-written email template of the following petition to the Sonoma County Board of Directors, District Directors, and Mayors. Fill in your name in the introductory sentence and signature.

We, concerned residents of Sonoma County, are horrified and outraged by the Sonoma County law enforcement agencies’ decision to use tear gas and kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs) as a form of crowd control at the protests at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa over the weekends of May 30th-31st and June 6th-7th. We would like to highlight the following three recent reported incidents of head and eye injuries as a result of “less-lethal” force used by the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) (1):

  • On May 30th, police forces struck a 20-year-old woman just over her left eye with a rubber bullet, causing a wound that required several stitches. 
  • On May 31st, law enforcement shot a local father of five in the face with a sting-ball grenade that caused extensive damage to his face that later required two rounds of reconstructive surgery. 
  • On May 31st, police hit a 24-year-old male in the forehead with a rubber bullet, resulting in a large wound and profuse bleeding. 

KIPs cannot be safely used as a method of crowd control for the following reasons:

  1. KIPs pose indiscriminate and extreme physical danger to peaceful protesters, demonstrators, and bystanders. 
    - A systematic review of the literature on injuries caused by KIPs revealed that 3% of injuries are lethal, 15% of injuries cause permanent disability, and 71% of survivors are injured severely (2).
  2. KIPs are inherently inaccurate.
    - SRPD Chief Ray Navarro claimed that “we [police officers] never aim for the head.” As noted above, at least three people ended up with traumatic head injuries. This proves that SRPD is unable to use KIPs as intended (1).
  3. Their use has been documented to escalate peaceful protests.
    - Three separate federal commissions concluded that police use of escalated force, including KIPs and tear gas, actually intensifies the anger and fear on both sides that the police tactics intended to curb, as cited in the Press Democrat’s June 6th article (1,3).
  4. The lack of a national standard for training, use, regulation, and reporting leads to a strong potential for misuse of KIPs. 
    - Manufacturers of KIPs are not required to keep records on the injuries their products cause; law enforcement is not required to document the use of KIPs or the injuries sustained as a result of their use (4). 
     

Many organizations are already advocating for the cessation of use of rubber bullets and other KIPs, including: the American Academy of Ophthalmology; UCSF Department of Ophthalmology; Amnesty International; Physicians for Human Rights. 

The following local, regional, and state governments have either banned the use of KIPs and/or tear gas or have publicly discussed the possibility of doing so: San Jose, CA; San Francisco, CA; Oakland, CA; Seattle, WA; Allegheny County, PA; Denver, CO. 

For the health and safety of all Sonoma County residents, we call on the Mayors and the Board of Supervisors to:

Ban the use of all kinetic impact projectiles, including rubber bullets, bean bag bullets, sponge rounds, pepper balls, sting-ball grenades and baton rounds.

The urgency of this call to action is best expressed by Ash Kalra, a California State Assemblymember: “Rubber bullets should not be used to suppress freedom of assembly, peaceful protest, or to facilitate curfews and disperse people demonstrating. Taking away these tools that cause injury and escalate tensions is the first of many necessary changes that need to happen if we are to truly claim to support communities of color and address the persistent problems facing Black Americans” (5).

As stated by California Governor Gavin Newsom: “Protesters have the right to protest peacefully — not be harassed. Not be shot at by rubber bullets or tear gas. Today I am calling for the creation of a new statewide standard for use of force in protests. Acts of violence against peaceful protesters will not be tolerated” (6). Until these statewide standards go into effect, it is imperative we in Sonoma County lead the charge and ban the use of KIPs and tear gas on protesters and demonstrators to prevent any more unnecessary and inhumane injury, disability, and death.

Thank you for making this a priority.

Cited Articles

1.  https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/11005880-181/anger-concern-mount-over-santa
2. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjopen/2017/12/18/rubber-plastic-bullets-used-for-crowd-control-can-maim-and-kill/
3. https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/06/01/why-so-many-police-are-handling-the-protests-wrong
4. https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/06/05/police-rubber-bullets-legislation-california-george-floyd-protests/
5. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/bay-area-lawmakers-join-push-for-new-rules-on-police-use-of-rubber-bullets/ar-BB155Rcj?ocid=hplocalnews
6. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/06/05/gov-gavin-newsom-calls-for-use-of-force-reforms-end-to-carotid-hold-instruction/

Additional Information

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(02)08708-1/fulltext?cc=y%3D
https://ucsf.app.box.com/s/hqp0omkulrbsiifeprqkdxmbfd53a42q

Photo Usage: Gabe Meline/KQED