Raleigh police used tear gas 252 times, city spent more than $1 million on George Floyd protests, report says

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Raleigh police chief addresses use of tear gas, cost of Floyd protests in May
At 6:41 p.m. on May 30, police reported the first escalation in tensions when protesters rushed into the sally-port of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown presented an After Action Report stemming from the May protests in downtown Raleigh.

The report provided a timeline as well as details about costs, use of force and deployment tactics, arrests, charges and other issues related to the events.

The protests initially began as large, but peaceful, gatherings in downtown Raleigh in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, before intensifying to riots. Authorities estimated about 1,000 people were in attendance around 6 p.m. on May 30.

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Raleigh police and protesters faced off in downtown Raleigh. At one point, police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

At 6:41 p.m. that night, police reported the first escalation in tensions when protesters rushed into the sally-port of the Wake County Sheriff's Office. By 8 p.m., they reported seeing an increase in "lawless behavior." About an hour later, the report states, "the Fayetteville Street area had become volatile."

Findings state there were reports of 153 burglaries, 71 cases of property damage, and six arsons leading to 106 arrests with more warrants pending. In total, the city spent just over $900,000 in additional costs for staffing, vehicle repair, and other supplies. That's on top of more than $530,000 worth of staffing shifted to respond to the protests downtown.

Over a two night span, May 30 and May 31, Raleigh police deployed CS gas 252 times, and foam Baton 257 times, the bulk of which occurred on the first night. On top of that, they also used several other deterrents including flash bangs, MK-9 spray, and red and white smoke.

According to the report, this is just the third time in 46 years that RPD had deployed gas -- the other two occasions followed the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 and NC State's NCAA Basketball Championship in 1974.

Deck-Brown stressed the need for better field communication, citing one incident on May 31. According to the report, protesters lied down on Morgan Street and blocked traffic. Officers heard there was an ambulance heading to the area for an unrelated call, and used tear gas to move protesters. However, due to a delayed message, officers were unaware that the EMS was no longer needed.

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"And that's what happens when communication is missed, and I'm really glad at the end of the day that there wasn't a life-threatening event on the other side of the Capitol Square, and it's really unfortunate and I wish we hadn't deployed the gas as well," said Deck-Brown.

While there was a curfew in effect, officers did not arrest majority of those who were in violation.

"In a crisis, you cannot arrest your way of the crisis. And definitely not one like this," said Deck-Brown in response to questions about mass arrests for curfew violations.

She further discussed the importance of enhancing police-community relationships in an attempt to prevent future incidents of this magnitude.

"What I've done as Chief and along with our Command staff is we've taken time for our officers will do listening sessions to speak about their experiences over the course of these weeks that address those issues that are unprecedented, that are impacting them and of course their families, and giving them that space where they have an opportunity to address their concerns, to talk about how this has impacted them, to talk about the issues surrounding race, the issues surrounding hate and there hope for what we all expect to come out of this and that is to be a better organization but also a better city."

Fourteen officers reported injuries stemming from the protests.

21CP Solutions, an outside consulting firm, is working on an independent report of the events, which is set to be completed next month.