SEATTLE — In a ruling Friday night, a federal judge blocked a new Seattle law prohibiting police from using pepper spray and other anti-riot force options.
U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request by the federal government to block the measure as the new law was to take effect Sunday, the Seattle Times reported.
The Seattle City Council passed the new law unanimously last month, hoping to reduce violent clashes between police and protesters.
However, the U.S. Justice Department argued that the inability to use pepper spray, blast balls and other devices might actually lead to more police use of force, not less, the Times reported.
In his ruling, Robart determined that the situation required further discussion between the city and the Justice Department, which years ago entered a settlement agreement regarding a police department overhaul because of past complaints about excessive force and biased policing.
Robart called his restraining order blocking the law “very temporary,” and advised the city and the Justice Department to engage in constructive discussions regarding the next step.
“I urge you all to use it as an occasion to try to find out where it is we are and where it is we’re going,” he said, according to the Times. “I can’t tell youy today if blast balls are a good idea or a bad idea, but I know that sometime a long time ago I approved them.”
Robart is the presiding judge in the 2012 consent decree that required Seattle city officials to address the past allegations of excessive force and biased policing.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, a federal government plane arrived in Seattle, carrying federal law enforcement officers who were expected to be deployed this weekend to protect federal buildings from any possible rioting, Fox News reported.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said the plane landed at Boeing Field and more than a “dozen personnel drove off to an unknown destination.”
City leaders confirmed that federal officers might be deployed to “protect federal buildings” after they received conflicting reports from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told her Thursday afternoon that the DHS had no plans – and saw no need – to send federal law enforcement to Seattle. That belief apparently changed later in the day.
“I made clear to Acting Secretary Wolf that deployments in Seattle — like we have seen in Portland — would undermine public safety and break community trust,” Durkan added. “DHS now says they have a limited number of agents in the area on standby to protect federal buildings.”