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Boston police unions sue city over restriction on less-than-lethal force

Boston Police Headquarters on June 9, 2021.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The unions representing detectives and superior officers in the Boston Police Department are suing the city over its restriction on less-than-lethal force, such as chemical spray and rubber bullets, and are calling for a judge to rule on the validity of past ordinances that the unions allege the city is violating.

The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society filed the lawsuit Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, according to court records. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, City Council President Ed Flynn, and Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long are listed as defendants.

A message sent to Wu’s office late Monday night was not immediately returned.

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The city’s ordinance on the use of such measures was introduced in the wake of protests in the summer of 2020 over the use of force by police and was passed by the City Council and signed by former acting mayor Kim Janey in April 2021.

In the lawsuit, the unions argue that other ordinances passed by the City Council long ago involving the police department have gone unenforced for decades.

Among ordinances cited in the lawsuit is a regulation passed in the late 1970s that required the police department to have no fewer than 2,500 sworn officers, yet the department currently has less than 2,000 members on the force, according to the lawsuit.

Another ordinance requires all marked and unmarked police vehicles to be staffed by two police officers 24 hours a day, and another calls for every cruiser to be equipped with a shotgun and a shotgun rack, the lawsuit says. The unions say none of these rules are currently enforced.

The lawsuit also seeks a judge’s ruling on the validity of the city’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency. The office was created in December 2020 and allows for people with complaints against police officers to appeal if the police department’s internal affairs unit determines the complaint to be unfounded.

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Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.