I spent much of this past weekend watching the events on the streets of Toronto during G-20 Summit. My interest in these crowd related events stemmed from the fact that I spent 19 of my 25 years of my policing career as a member of the Calgary Police Service Crowd Control Unit.
My first deployment with the Crowd Control Unit was in 1984 during a riot at the Remand Centre in Calgary. The inmates had rioted and taken over much of the cell block area including the weight room where they had access to metal bars and steel weights. Through the use of tear gas and appropriate force we were able to regain control in relatively short order.
The last 15 years of my time with the Crowd Control Section were spent as the Sergeant in charge of training and development. I also had the privilege of serving as the Deputy Commander during World Petroleum Congress and the G-8 Summit in Calgary.
As I watched the events unfold over the two days I had somewhat of an appreciation for the enormity of the task facing the integrated security units and a great deal of pride and respect for all the law enforcement personnel involved in security and crowd management operations. It brought back many memories and a great sense of wishing I was there.
I have been removed from the crowd management training since my retirement 5 1/2 years ago but I just thought I would share a few things I learned in my time in crowd control. If you are involved in any way with crowd control training or planning for crowd events here are some things to consider:
Education is Critical
Educate yourself about the latest in tactics. This is not only law enforcement tactics, but tactics of the various protest groups that you may encounter.
Educate your officers, your administrators, the media and your politicians as to what they realistically can expect. In todays world if the anarchist groups (serial criminals who follow major events bent on causing problems) are showing up expect them to use bricks, rocks, clubs, bottles of urine, bags of feces, ball bearing, hammers, sling shots and a variety of other weapons. They will use these against property and against the police.
Educate them on the language of protesters. Many of these groups consider the use of the above mentioned weapons against property and against the police to be ‘non-violent protests’. They will attempt to say it is the fault of government and the police. They will use the excuse they are just frustrated and this is the only way they can make their point. This, of course, is just a bunch of crap.
Educate all these groups about the various use of force options so they understand what tools you really have and when you will use them. The media is infatuated with tear gas and rubber bullets and understand nothing else. In fact they really don’t understand tear gas or ‘rubber bullets’.
Educate your officers and administrators about that fact that when nothing is happening you will be portrayed as the bad guys who are over reacting and contributing to high costs of securing an event. When bad shit is happening you are the heroes who have come to save the day. After you have quelled the unrest and no more bad stuff is happening you will again become the target for the media and those that can get in front of a camera. If nothing happens people will generally not credit your preventive work, they will say that you were not needed. That is the way it is so get used to it.
Educate your leadership about the critical importance of intelligence. You must gather and disseminate intelligence. Intelligence that is not shared with everyone involved in the operation is of limited value.
My thanks and appreciation to all the law enforcement officers involved in the G-8 / G-20 Summit and to all crowd control officers around the world. It is a difficult job and you do it well.
In Part 2 next week we will talk about some training issues.