Temporary restraining order prohibits Denver Police from using chemical agents or projectiles against peaceful protesters without supervisor approval

Denver Police seen during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd, on May 30, in Denver.

(CNN)Calling the Denver Police Department's efforts to "police its own" a failure, a US District Court Judge granted a temporary restraining order late Friday evening prohibiting the use of "chemical weapons or projectiles of any kind against persons engaging in peaceful protests or demonstrations."

The temporary restraining order (TRO) granted by Judge R. Brooke Jackson applies to the City and County of Denver, and specifically the Denver Police Department and those assisting the department.
The ruling came after four Denver residents who participated in demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, filed a complaint Thursday challenging the Denver Police Department's use of chemical agents and rubber projectiles during protests.
The plaintiff's allege in some cases the Denver Police Department "violated their First Amendment right to free speech and their Fourth Amendment right against excessive force by using pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, and tear gas to punish plaintiffs for demonstrating against police brutality."
    "In issuing this relief I do not seek to prevent officers from protecting themselves or their community," Jackson said in the ruling. "I seek to balance citizens' constitutional rights against officers' ability to do their job. However, the time is past to rely solely on the good faith and discretion of the Denver Police Department and its colleagues from other jurisdictions."

    Restrictions on use of projectiles and chemicals

    Under the temporary restraining order, only on-scene supervisors holding the rank of Captain or above are allowed to authorize the use of non-lethal projectiles and chemical agents such as tear gas and pepper spray after personally witnessing "specific acts of violence or destruction of property."
    Jackson also included additional stipulations for the use of the non-lethal projectiles and the chemical agents by officers. They include:
    • Kinetic Impact Projectiles ("KIPs") and all other non- or less-lethal projectiles may never be discharged to target the head, pelvis, or back.
    • KIPs and all other non- or less-lethal projectiles shall not be shot indiscriminately into a crowd.
    • Non-Denver officers can not use any demonstration of force or weapon beyond what Denver itself authorizes for its own officers. Any non-Denver officer permitted to or directed to be deployed to the demonstrations shall be considered an agent of Denver and the city can ensure the officer is limiting their use of force to that which is authorized.
    • All officers deployed to demonstrations must have their body-worn cameras recording at all times, and they may not intentionally obstruct the camera or recording.
    • Chemical agents or irritants (including pepper spray and tear gas) may only be used after an order to disperse is issued.
    • Any and all orders to disperse must be followed with adequate time for the intended audience to comply, and officers must leave room for safe egress. If it appears that the intended audience was unable to hear the order, the order must be repeated prior to the use of chemical agents or irritants.

    Request for modifications

    Following the ruling, the Denver Police Department said in posts on Twitter that it would comply with the order, but is asking the judge for some modifications.
    "A federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) clarifying #DPD use of non-lethal dispersant devices. In the meantime, we will comply with the judge's directions, many of which are already in line with our community-consulted Use of Force Policy," the post said. "We are asking for modifications to the Order that would account for limitations on staffing and body-worn cameras so the directions can be operationalized."
    On Friday night, the city and county of Denver filed an emergency motion for modification of the temporary restraining order.
    The motion asked the court to allow officers at the rank of lieutenant to authorize the deployment of chemical agents or projectiles in response to specific acts of violence or destruction of property because of limitations in staffing.
      "This is not feasible under the command structure of the Denver Police Department because currently there are only four police officers with the rank of Captain and one Commander responsible for the downtown area," the motion said.
      The motion also requested to eliminate the requirement regarding the body cameras, claiming the order would prevent the department from receiving assistance from other agencies that do not have body cameras. The city also cited technical limitations of the body cameras as another reason for eliminating the requirement.