Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Settlement reached in lawsuit filed by Ferguson protesters

Three Missouri police agencies agree to restrict their use of tear gas and other chemical agents on crowds

Three Missouri police agencies will restrict their use of tear gas and other chemical agents on crowds as part of a lawsuit settlement with six Ferguson protesters, according to court documents released Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson dismissed the lawsuit Thursday at the request of both sides. The settlement also calls for her to supervise the case through 2017, to ensure the agencies comply.

Jackson issued a temporary restraining order in December requiring police to provide "reasonable" warning before using tear gas on a crowd. Protesters sued over the "unified command" that handled security at the protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson in August. The command was comprised of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis police.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson agreed to the settlement terms, according to the judge's dismissal order.

St. Louis police on Thursday directed questions about the settlement to Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for St. Louis' mayor. Crane didn't immediately return phone calls Thursday. Messages also were left with the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Brown, who was black, was unarmed when he was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, during a confrontation. A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Wilson of wrongdoing, though he resigned from the department in November.

Under the protesters' lawsuit settlement, officers will be required to provide "clear and unambiguous warnings" before tear gas is used and allow people sufficient time to leave the area. Police also must seek to minimize the impact on those complying, and ensure a safe escape path. Police also agreed not to use tear gas against lawful protesters.

Each agency also agreed to pay $2,500 in legal costs.

Three protesters testified during a December hearing that they were subjected to tear gas and improper treatment by officers. Police witnesses countered that their tactics were necessary to prevent looting and potentially save lives.

St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert said after the December ruling that it was consistent with existing policy of the city's police force. He called it a "common-sense order that will allow the St. Louis Police Department to continue to protect protesters' constitutional rights, keep people safe and protect people's homes and businesses."

The Associated Press

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