The Oregon Legislature Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform is taking public testimony this week on HB 4208, which would limit the use of tear gas by law enforcement. The bill currently allows for an exemption in the case of “riots.”
As a health advocacy organization, we agree with the American Public Health Association’s assessment that police violence and racism are public health crises. Tear gas, banned for warfare since 1925, has no place on our streets.
Take Action: Submit your written testimony calling for a ban on law enforcement use of tear gas in any circumstance. Testimony should be emailed by 5:00 PM this Friday, July 17th.
Live testimony will be heard from this Friday, July 17th from 2:00 - 3:00 PM (session starts at 1:00 PM). Register to speak by 9:00 AM on Friday. Speakers will likely be given 3 minutes to speak, and there is no guarantee that all who register will get to speak, so be sure to submit your testimony in writing, as well.
Watch live testimony and find out about the Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform’s other hearings here.
Points to consider in your testimony:
- Tear gas has been banned for warfare since 1925. Still, CS gas (o-Chlorobenzylidene malononitrile) remains one of the most extensively used “riot control” agents. It has transient as well as lasting, severe, and sometimes life-threatening effects on skin, respiratory systems, and eyes. Police, demonstrators, bystanders, and secondarily-exposed health care workers have been harmed by exposure to CS.
- One in ten people in Oregon has asthma, with disproportionate rates among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Using tear gas arbitrarily puts BIPOC and others with varying levels of health or vulnerability, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), at risk of serious life-threatening illness.
- During a pandemic of respiratory disease, it is excessively reckless to expose people in a crowd to lung irritants.
- The riot exemption must be removed, as we have already seen police in Oregon abusing this exemption to deploy tear gas on protesters.
- We also urge to not just stop here, but to listen to the voices of Black community leaders to fundamentally transform our systems of public safety.
Thank you for taking action to protect the health of our communities.