BOSTON — Two Boston police unions have filed a legal challenge to City Council rules that restrict the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other less-than-lethal crowd control methods that the unions say were based on politics and put public safety at risk.

The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society filed the suit Monday in Suffolk County Superior Court.

“By eliminating our officers ability to use less than lethal force, City Council themselves are forcing escalation of incidents with their irresponsible and poorly researched policies,” the unions said in a statement. “We will not stand silent while our city council picks and chooses what they want from our officers based on politics and public opinion rather than public safety.”

The City Council first passed the ordinance in the summer of 2020 following nationwide protests over police tactics after the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, but former Mayor Marty Walsh vetoed it. The council passed it again last year and acting Mayor Kim Janey signed it.

Boston police were criticized for some of their crowd control measures during a June 2020 protest.

Current Mayor Michelle Wu, City Council President Ed Flynn and Boston Police Department Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long are named as defendants. A spokesperson for the mayor said the city had no comment.


Under state law, city law enforcement policy decisions rest with the commissioner, the lawsuit said, and there are legal precedents for city council-imposed rules being declared invalid by the courts.

Wu last week named a new police commissioner, but he’s not taking over until next month.

The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation represents about 250 captains, lieutenants and sergeants. The Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society represents detectives, detective superior officers and civilian forensic criminalists.

The suit asks a judge to rule whether the rules are valid and enforceable.

“This is an issue that affects not just our officer’s safety, it affects the communities we serve, those that work and visit our great city,” BPDBS President Donald Caisey said.

The lawsuit also asks the court to rule on the validity of the city’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, which was created in December 2020 and allows citizens with complaints against police officers to appeal to an oversight panel, even if the police department’s own internal affairs unit determines the complaint is unfounded.

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