In last week’s post we talked about the importance of Education at all levels of your organization as an element of crowd management. This week we will talk about some training thoughts.
I was very fortunate in my career in crowd control that I had the opportunity to spend time with people like Dick Odenthal and Dennis Beene from L.A. County Sheriffs Dept. and Frank Boccanegra from Metro Dade in Florida. I had the opportunity to spend time in Seattle following the WTO Riots and debrief their officers. I had the opportunity to work with highly motivated officers from the Calgary Police Service who have continued to advance the training and development in the area of crowd management. I also had the opportunity to train with and share information with crowd control units from across Canada, the US and the UK.
Here are some things I learned in 19 years of crowd control involvement:
Training is Critical
Train hard for the unexpected then, when it happens, it will be neither hard or unexpected.
Train in context. This means spending time in the equipment you may have to use on the street. I know that hard tac riot gear is hot. Get used to it. You may have to spend 12 to 20 hours straight in the gear if things get violent so make sure you are conditioned. This also means spending time training in your gas masks. Train in contaminated environments so you know you masks work. Train in putting your masks on in a varietry of situations including while you are deployed on the front lines. Things can change rapidly and you may have little warning that tear gas is being deployed by either side of the confrontation.
Spend time training in all types of weather conditions. At the tail end of the G-20 events there was a major downpour and the officers deployed on the front lines had to maintain their position in the pouring rain.
Get used to verbal abuse. Train to get things thrown at you from a crowd while maintaining discipline and while identifying and dealing with the responsible parties. The best way to prepare for crowds is to train with them. Be creative in finding ways to create crowds for training purposes. Use other officers, actors or if you train with other agencies you can take turns playing the role of the crowd. Spend time training in loud environments where communication is challenging.This might be enclosed arenas or stadiums where you can pump crowd noise though the P.A. system or use large speakers in an outdoor environment.
Train for mobility. Protests, especially at large events are very mobile. You may know where you want the crowds to go, and most will go there. Mobile field force tactics allow you to respond quickly and effectively to both planned marches and to situations where groups of trouble makers break off and go where you do not want or expect them to. If you are restricted to being on foot or moving by bus then it limits your options.
Train for various levels of response. If you only train in ‘riot’ tactics then you limit your deployment options. Often events can be managed effectively by well training crown control officers in patrol uniforms or tac pants and blouse along with their duty belt and appropriate equipment. Use every opportunity to have your crowd control officers on the street dealing with crowd situations. This can be sporting events, small gatherings, political rallies, etc. This gets the public used to seeing crowd control officers out at events and gives your officers invaluable experience in dealing with groups of people.
If you have access to mountain bike officers use them and train with them. They are a tremendous resource and exceptionally mobile. If you are part of a mountain bike unit make sure you get training in crowd management tactics.
If you have a Mounted Unit, train with them. Horses are a great resource but your officers need to get used to them and they need to get used to you. The last thing you want is a collision between your officers and a horse because you are not familiar with each other.
Train with your arrest teams or ‘snatch teams’ if you have them. They can be a great resource but you need to train together.
Research and train with your tools. This includes shields, batons, chemical munitions, less lethal munitions and firearms. Using a firearm while in hard tac and a gas mask is a skill that needs practice. I would also suggest you look into the Pepperball Custom Carbine Weapons systems (www.pepperball.com). It is a great tool for crowd management and can offer deployment options in situations where an Arwen or bean bag rounds may not appropriate.
Those are my thoughts. Train hard and stay safe.