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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Crowd Control Policy and the 'Occupy' Movement

Is your agency’s policy ready to cover your response to demonstrations, protests, and civil disobedience.

December 06, 2011  |  by Greg Meyer

Flickr_CC: waltarrrrr
Flickr_CC: waltarrrrr

The various "Occupy" demonstrations and college campus protests in recent months, beginning with "Occupy Wall Street" and spreading across the land, present law enforcement with new challenges. The "Occupy" groups are typically made up of a hodge-podge of people and causes, with no defined leadership.

In many cases the "Occupy" protestors illegally parlay their First Amendment rights of speech and peaceful assembly into literally taking over public areas for weeks and months, erecting tent cities. Many civic leaders embrace the "Occupy" protestors. Weeks later, a public backlash occurs, and many of the same politicians who supported them decide that enough is enough.

Guess who the elected officials (or campus officials) send in to take down the tent cities and "evict" the protestors. (Do you have a mirror handy?)

All of the police actions in these matters are documented by huge numbers of amateur videos by the protestors and onlookers as well as the usual media videos. There probably isn't one "best way" to handle these matters. Each situation is different.

Recently at the University of California at Davis, public outrage was provoked by a YouTube moment featuring officers pepper-spraying demonstrators, who were passively sitting on the ground. At U.C. Berkeley, officers used batons on protestors who were actively resisting but not attacking; the officers were not equipped with pepper spray for crowd control. The Oakland police contended with significant riotous behavior, and a variety of weapons and tactics were deployed.

In Los Angeles, the police communicated for weeks with the protestors while devising a unique plan, intentionally different from the usual skirmish line "move'em out" tactics. A couple of nights after the mayor ordered the tent city to be taken down and the protestors taken out, after midnight on Nov. 30, more than 1,000 officers swiftly descended on the large group from unexpected locations. The result was that "Occupy LA" protestors were dispersed without significant use of force, even though nearly 300 were arrested.

It's time to brush up on your agency's crowd control policies, training, equipment, and tactics.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Training Key No. 588, "Mass Demonstrations and Civil Disturbances" (available online), provides strategies for modern management of these events.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) booklet, "Police Management of Mass Demonstrations" and other PERF publications may be obtained online or by calling (888) 202-4563.

Take a look at your use-of-force policy. Is it up to date? Does it conform to the law of the land?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled way back in 1989 that certain criteria are relevant to analyzing whether a use of force was legitimate. What was the seriousness of the crime? What was the threat to officers and other people? Was the person resisting or attempting to escape? See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). And several federal appellate courts have ruled that warnings must be given before force is used, if feasible.

We all know that use of force (including in crowd control situations) puts us between a rock and a hard spot. The public is very fickle about the subject.

Your own YouTube moment waits. Are you ready?

Greg Meyer is a retired Los Angeles Police Department captain. He is a member of the POLICE Advisory Board.

Tags: Protests, Crowd Control, Pepper Spray, Occupy Wall Street


Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

TimFromLA @ 12/6/2011 7:05 PM

I told you so. In my previous posts, I told EVERY LEO that who will get blamed? The brass? Nope. So as an unofficial liaison to OccupyLA, I'm directing the anger not to the troops, but to the people who order you folks to do their work. The same people who JACKET you for their mistake/stupidity and deny you a raise or promotion. It's working and this is why the men and women must support the 99%ers. It's no longer you f-ing pigs, but fire the management. You know, the pogues? Brass? Management? Pretty soon you won't have a jacket tailing you because you parked your car on some mentally ill person's UFO. Huh you're saying? Ask an LAPD copper what a 1.28 is and you'll see why what I'm doing is important and how you in your respected city should be proactive and work with the 99%ers.

JReb @ 12/6/2011 7:11 PM

I have to comment here because I keep seeing this UC Davis incident mischaracterized by people (like here) who should know better. Those UC Davis punks were NOT passively resisting. A crowd that significantly outnumbered the officers present linked arms and deliberately surrounded a group of officers that had arrested a few protesters. They were chanting things like “Let them go and we’ll let you go,” “F&ck the police,” and “Cops off campus.” They stated (using loudspeaker lead chants) their intention to physically prevent the officers from leaving with the arrestees and then took action to demonstrate their preparation to do just that. That is NOT passive resistance. It is not even active resistance, it is active aggression. What they were doing was holding a lynching…using the force of a mob to remove someone from police custody. Check out THIS video of the incident > http://www.policemag.com/Videos/Channel/Patrol/2011/12/Fuller-Account-of-UC-Davis-Pepper-Spraying.aspx

TimFromLA @ 12/6/2011 7:24 PM

JReb, so you do agree that the cops are blamed and the management get off free?

JReb @ 12/6/2011 7:38 PM

Actually, TimFromLA, at UC Davis, the department brass is under as much fire over the mischaracterized incident as the Lt. that actually sprayed the pepper...and I have heard no condemnation or calls for reprisals regarding the line officers present.

But, to answer what I think you are actually asking…No. I feel no solidarity or even respect for the so-called “99%.” I do not think that anarchy is the answer to ANY problem…and the occupy mental-midgets cannot even define the problem that they are “protesting” beyond some vague villainizing of “corporations” and “the rich” nor can they articulate any reality-based solution. So, no, I will not be joining or even supporting their idiotic “movement.”

AusFost1 @ 12/6/2011 10:20 PM

Jreb: LEGEND.. 100% correct, brother.

WTH?! @ 12/7/2011 9:23 AM

Well said JReb.

Jay Dub @ 12/7/2011 10:29 AM

Semper Fi JReb!

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