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  • Crowd ControlPlanning for Civil



    Every police agencymust plan for crowdcontrol and civil dis-turbance. It does nottake a major

    occurrence like the WTO con-ference or the Republican NationalConvention to embroil the agencyin a profound event. Consider themyriad of reasons that have precip-itated riots in recent history:sporting events. weddingreceptions, labor disputes, socialgatherings, college campusactivities and police action. Eventhe smallest agency can potentiallybe faced with an out of controlcrowd when rival high schools playa championship game While some

    events may be spontaneous, manycan be anticipated.

    The first task of any agency is toassess the political will. What kindof support does the agency havefrom the governing body? Iftactical action is dictated, will theagency be supported, distanced orpublicly criticized? If the politicalwill is an unknown, the time toformally seek support is now, notafter the fact. Know where thedepartment stands and incorporatethat as a factor in the measuredresponse plan. If the department isnot on very firm ground, start apublic relations campaign imme-diately The ability of officers toact safely will depend on theirstanding in the political will.

    The first component of acampaign to garner the political

    will is information. How muchdoes the governing body, and thepublic in general, understand theintended response? To addresssome of the frictions commonbetween the police and the com-munity, many police agencies haveengaged in an outreach effort. ThePortland, OR, Police Bureau ini-tiated a Citizens Academy, a courseof instruction that takes citizensthrough some of the rudimentaryskills taught to recruits. Whencitizens have a greater under-standing of what officers aretaught, and why they do what theydo, some common criticisms arediffused.

    Showing selected members ofthe political body what the officersare trained to do is beneficial forlaw enforcement. A crucial elementincludes how the departmentarrived at the response plan.

    If a video is available of othercrowd control responses, keyleaders can see what others havedone or not done. This is helpfultor training officers, as well asgiving community and govern-mental leaders a realistic idea of theimpact that crowds can have on thelivability of the community. Sharesome of the intended police tacticsso the response is not a surprise.

    Some community members areshocked when officers deploywearing helmets. If the departmentis forthcoming about this piece ofequipment and its purpose,criticism can be deflected. If theresponse plan includes OC pepperspray, sting-ball grenades, less-lethal munitions or other spe-cialized equipment, this fore-warning is critical. Televisioncoverage should not be the firsttime community leaders find outabout this kind of police response.Do not, of course, disclose all ofthe police tactics and contin-gencies, but an exposure tied todeployment theory could keep theagency out of the political hot spot.The more the public knows aboutthe manner and motive for thepolice response, the better off thepolice are.

    158 LAW and ORDER October 2001

    Reprinted from Law and Order withpermission from Hendon Publishing Co.

  • Since the information on policetactics and equipment is out, have thePublic Information Officer update thepolitical leaders and the press about thepolice training and equipment. Showhow the techniques and equipment willenhance public safety, and the safety ofnon-criminal demonstrators. Explainwhy the plan is the safest for allinvolved. Counteract the "no-response-by-police" argument asinvalid. Film footage from otherdemonstrations that turned criminalcan bolster the police assertions. Therepresentatives of anarchist groups,and other advocates for unlawfulactions, will conduct their own infor-mation campaign.

    Foster support through opennessand a rapid identification of policeshortcomings, followed by a plan tocorrect the problem. In many cases,incorrect responses to crowd controlcome down to training and leadershipissues. Many officers could improvetheir reaction by being taught howbetter to react. An organized, well-trained and disciplined squad willseldom cause embarrassment. Thatalso implies the police have adequatelytrained supervisors with a reasonablespan of control. It is frequently inde-pendent or unsupervised action thatcauses the most trouble.

    If officers are fatigued, have insuf-ficient sleep, are on the line facingdemonstrators for hours with few, ifany, breaks for food or personal needs,being shouted at and spit upon, someinappropriate responses can beexpected. The overwhelmed officers,when finally asked to act, can easilyoverreact. The squad leaders and fieldcommanders need to have these con-ditions as a primary concern.

    Next, foster the support base. Busi-nesses such as Nike, Starbucks,McDonalds and clothing stores sellinganimal furs can be valuable allies.They are frequently targeted by anar-chists and depend heavily on the policeto protect their assets. Ask for theirhelp as partners in the communityinformation and police trainingcampaign. Ask for their endorsementsto build the political will and publicsupport base.

    The final plank of the campaign isto find avenues of influence. Identify

    community members who are willingto listen to the police plans and phi-losophy for crowd response. Let thembe a police advocate in the community.The strategy of the police manager canbe dismissed as self-focused. It wouldbe difficult to dismiss influential com-munity members for the same reason.


    The maximum exposure will comefrom response to crisis. Crisisresponse always entails risks, and theconsequences of the decisions could bedevastating, as demonstrated in thebacklash after the Seattle WTO riots.Time will always be against thedepartment. Use the 1 /3-2/3 rule:managers take 1/3 of the total planningtime, and allow subordinates to take2/3 of the total planning time. If thisrule is applied at each level of the orga-nization, the subordinates will havemaximum time to prepare.

    In the preparatory phase, clearlydefine the Rules of Engagement(ROE). These rules teli officers howthey are expected to respond to thecrowd. What are some triggeringevents that would precipitate aresponse by officers? What level ofresponse is reasonable when the crowdengages in specified types ofbehaviors? Tell officers what forcelevels are authorized without anyfurther direction from the IncidentCommander (IC). Delineate whatauthority is given to squad leaders,mobile field force commanders and theIC. Consult legal counsel about thecontent of the ROE, since the operationorder and the ROE will be discov-erable for any litigation.

    Establish interagency agreementsfor mutual aid. Identify points ofcontact well in advance. Havestanding agreements with whateveragency is responsible for fire sup-pression, trash removal, streetcleaning, and prisoner detention.Include Fire and EMS personnel in theplanning. Have a Memorandum ofAgreement (MOA) with mutual aidentities that delineates who is incharge, and who is responsible forwhat. After mutual aid has gone home,the community will hold thedepartment answerable for actionsfrom outside departments.


    The next concept critical in crowdcontrol is momentum. Certain fore-seeable issues influence whether thecrowd or the police possess themomentum. Momentum represents theenergy necessary to perpetuate oraccelerate the respective group'sactions. Groups have gathered as bothviolent and non-violent crowds. Howthey act, and are responded to. dictatehow they bloom and develop theirmomentum. As they begin to developa group psyche, they are furtheremboldened by chanting and focusingtheir energy. If they gain strength incohesive numbers, they have the firststep in momentum. If they begin toestablish their strength, such as collec-tively deciding on a goal or direction,they become further empowered.

    Acts of civil disobedience andcriminal behavior further establish theidea that they can self-direct behaviorwith little or no impunity. Thisformula is ripe for unchecked criminalacts. The police must try to stop thecrowd from gaining this criminalmomentum. Every time the police setlimits and fail to enforce them, speed isadded to the crowd's momentum. If thepolice give up ground, they again feedthat momentum.

    At certain points, the police candisrupt the momentum cycle of thecrowd. The first point of influence isthe initial police deployment, whichmay be dictated by the communityexpectations. However, decide inadvance what kind of police image isto be projected. Making a potentiallyproblematic crowd aware that thepolice are present and are capable ofacting is important. Showing a portionof a well trained, well-disciplined forcecan accomplish a lot towards buildingthe police momentum and stealing themomentum from the crowd. If thepolice display an ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-prepared force, this willfeed the momentum of the crowd.

    The next point is behavioral expec-tations. What will the police allow thecrowd to do before they take action? Itmay be acceptable for a self-controlledgroup to occupy a public park to raisethe community's awareness ofminority issues. If an agitated group 159

  • wants to occupy the police station toprotest police brutality, officers need tointercede early. If possible, contact aperson in charge of the crowd andrelate the expectations. If legallypossible, record this conversation, as itmay be reported differently later. Theymay reject the police overture but atthe very least, the attempt at outreachplaces the department on the highground with both the community andpotential litigants. Teil them what isexpected and what they can anticipatefor consequences.

    Anything that can be done to reducethe anonymity of demonstrators will bebeneficial in undermining the crowd'smomentum. Many organized demon-strations will have their own videog-raphers. Deploy police videographersearly and to strategic locations. Manytimes, the police can capture peopleputting on their masks or disguises.Some communities have laws pro-hibiting behavior that would preventidentifying people who act out in thecrowd, such as the prohibition againstwearing a mask during demonstrations.


    Before facing a potentially unlawfulcrowd, develop a plan. If the intel-ligence sources are adequate, time willexist to plan. If not afforded the time,have a Standard Operating Procedure(SOP) for the unplanned event. If aseries of events takes place and theplan is to deploy resources in responseto certain actions, use an executionmatrix. This method reflects an

    "action versus resource" grid. It directsthat when a certain action is taken bythe crowd, such as arriving at a certainlocation or reaching a certain size, theresponse team will respond in a pre-planned action, such as depioyingacross a street or activating a reserveforce. An execution matrix lends itself

    to command and control methods thatwill remain clear in the midst of con-fusion and the near-certain failure ofradio communications. Geographiclandmarks, crowd action, or even atimeline can dictate a response.Integrate the priority of effort into theresponse matrix. The priority of effortdictates what deployed elements arefirst in line for critical assets, such ashorse mounted officers, gas distri-bution systems, less-lethal munitionsand reserve forces.

    The Operations Order shouldinclude a threat assessment. Obtaininformation about the crowd. What istheir organization? What weaponshave they used in the past, includingbleach, urine or paint in balloons?Have they sued police in the past? How

    do they use scouts and videographersto gather intelligence on police oper-ations? Have they used electronicdevices to jam police radio and cellphone communications? What vehiclesare associated with this group? Whatcounter-measures have they used forpolice tactics, such as lining clothingwith layers of cardboard to defeat less-lethal munitions, the use of gas masksor holding children to keep police fromusing force?

    One IC should direct the operationand identify that person to all involved.This makes direction clear, unam-biguous and contiguous. The ICshould be the most qualified, the mostdefensible and the person given theauthority to take whatever actionbecomes necessary. While changing ICin the middle of an exercise can bevery problematic, there should be anassistant IC to take over if needed-excellent training for a future IC.

    Plan for sustainability. During theWTO protest, the Seattle Policeworked their officers several extrahours per day for several days.Develop a plan to supply water, food,and perhaps even temporary housingfor the officers. If officers are neededon skirmish lines for extended periodsof time, determine how they will getrestroom and meal breaks. Many juris-dictions have learned the hard way thatletting officers face abusive protestorsfor extended periods, and allowingofficers to become fatigued, is aformula for problems including inap-propriate responses.

    TacticsDetermine where the police will

    encounter and resolve the disturbance.Use the forces to channel and direct thecrowd movement. Select the locationof the main effort so the engagement isas safe as possible. Try to minimizepotential targets, such as businesseswith large windows, easily accessibleweapons (bottles, rocks, sharp objects),fuel (newspapers, wood, gasoline) orterrain (multi-story buildings) thatgives the advantage to the protestors.

    Isolate the opponent leaders asmuch as possible. If they can resupplytheir people, rotate their people, andtheir command and control elementcan move in and out freely, they have

    160 LAW and ORDER October 2001

  • gained an advantage. If they becomeisolated, then they lose some of theirpower base. They cannot usebystanders and passive participants tohide or support their actions. Theirparticipants become hungry, thirsty,cold or hot, tired, and need to use arestroom. All of these factors depletethe crowd's momentum. During theWTO protest in Seattle, leaders passedfreely in and out of the crowd, pro-viding direction, intelligence andencouragement. Again, interdictingthe leadership enhances the policemomentum.

    Use police force multipliers, such asmounted, bicycle, ATV, motorcycleand airborne officers. Mountedofficers, for example, can be worthfour to five times as many officers onfoot. They make an excellent leadelement for squad movement. In mostagencies, however, these assets arelimited, so determine the mosteffective use of these assets. Do nothold these assets in reserve, instead usethese force multipliers to economizethe line forces.

    Another type of force multiplier isthe wide variety of crowd controlweapons systems, including gas, stingball weapons, impact weapons, pep-perball guns and foggers. A relativelysmall force can easily clear the streets

    of a large and hostile crowd using aseries of stingball grenades. The sameis true for the use of OC and chemicalagents, however, many groups arrivewith their own 2as masks.