ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The City of Rochester and Rochester Police Department announced changes to the policies and procedures for protests and mass gatherings Tuesday.

According to a statement sent by the city, the changes “will ensure citizens’ right to fairly and safely exercise their First Amendment right to protest.”

Beginning immediately:

  • Tear gas, flash bangs, long range acoustical device (LRADS) tones, and kettling is banned. Kettling is a crowd control tactic through which officers surround groups of people during protests or gatherings to contain the groups or make arrests.
  • Body-worn cameras are mandatory for all officers at “assemblies”
  • Officers will not tape over their badges. If the police chief determines officers can remove their badges “to protect their safety,” those officers will be given “a clearly identifiable, unique number assigned to them that will be prominently displayed at all times.”
  • “Significant limitations” are placed on the use of pepper balls, which now must be authorized by a “high ranking” official and may no longer be used to clear peaceful events.
  • K-9 officers are prohibited at protests and mass gatherings
  • The city’s attorney will be included in planning for response to protests and mass gatherings, and will be present with RPD command staff during such events.
  • The RPD’s eviction protocol now contains language clarifying the right to protest and take video, and prohibits the arrest of protestors at evictions unless those protestors “physically interfere with officers.”

“We can debate about who is right or wrong about the issues behind social movements, but one thing that is not debatable is the right of the people to peaceably assemble,” Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said in that Tuesday statement. “We want to ensure that, in Rochester, assemblies take place in a manner that is safe for both protestors and police.”

The RPD is currently without a permanent chief. David Smith has served as interim chief since October, 2021.