The Geneva 1993 International Chemical Weapons Convention banned the use of tear gas by military forces at war. The U.S. was a sponsor of and signatory to that agreement. In other words, the U.S. military does not use tear gas against enemy troops or combatants and hasn’t done so in nearly 30 years. The reason is that tear gas can be fatal, not just for the weak and infirm, but also for normally healthy people who suffer from a respiratory infection, the flu, or asthma.
Despite its prohibition for use on the battlefield, tear gas can still be used by U.S. police departments against our own citizens, on our own city streets. Do we not even deserve the same protections as enemy combatants?
No one is claiming that all cops are bad, but it has become glaringly obvious that the police exist in a protective power bubble. They can stop, harass, detain, arrest, assault, and, yes, even tear gas us, all with near impunity. And for the most part, they rarely have any reason to fear even minor consequences for their actions.
For the most part, this isn’t a problem. Most of us are law-abiding citizens, and most cops are well-trained professionals who are valuable assets to their communities. However, power corrupts, and corruption begins at the top.
Every police department across the country bears the proud slogan, “To Serve and Protect.” Along the way, some police departments have interpreted this to mean, “to intimidate and harass,” especially if you happen to be black.
I’m not condemning all cops. However, the rule of law is the bedrock of our civil society, and when even a small percentage of police put themselves above the law, the whole system becomes corrupted. If the global community has decided collectively that tear gas is not a humane weapon of war, should we not apply the same standard to the way the police treat citizens of our own country?