By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(PHILADELPHIA) — Philadelphia’s mayor and police commissioner apologized for using tear gas on protesters earlier this month and issued a moratorium on the practice after weeks of criticism.
Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters Thursday he was compelled to speak out against his officers’ actions during a June 1 protest on Interstate 676 after watching a New York Times video that showed dozens of protesters blasted with tear gas.
“Members of the department made decisions on use-of-force that were completely unacceptable,” he said at a news conference.
Kenney added that his previous statements in support of the police actions were based on “inaccurate information” and apologized to residents.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she is taking several actions in response to the tear gas incident. She placed a moratorium on using the weapon to disperse crowds that “includes any persons who are peacefully assembling or passively resisting.”
An unidentified officer who was involved with pepper spraying a protester is under investigation and will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss, according to Outlaw. His incident has also been referred to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Deputy Commissioner of Special Operation Dennis Wilson told reporters he was the commanding officer who gave approval for the use of tear gas and didn’t call the commissioner.
“I did this based on what I could see from my position, and also what I had been hearing on the radio,” he said at the news conference.
Wilson said he will take an immediate demotion for his actions.
Several protesters have been sharing videos that appear to show excessive force from officers during the protests, and are calling for reform. Christina Sorenson, a protester who was pepper-sprayed in the face, told reporters at a news conference that the city’s apologies and actions so far weren’t enough.
“The reason I was out there was because of systemic violence and a lack of investment in communities to allow for true public safety, and nothing that they announced today, to me, showed that,” she said at a news conference with her attorney.
Meanwhile, members of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the officers’ union, said they were furious over the commissioner’s move.
“To the officers out there, the message is be careful. Call us if you need us. No one has your back,” FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby told ABC affiliate WPVI.
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