Strategic and Tactical Responses
That law enforcement's response to the Occupy Movement has been seemingly schizoid at times is, to some degree, understandable. Certainly, appraisals of its responses have been similarly dichotomous, with some characterizing police arrests as precipitous, or their reticence to engage as too soft and lenient.
One West Coast police officer sums it up thusly: "We as the police will be damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we're too hands-off and permissive, it gives the impression that we're ineffective and it emboldens those people in the crowd who might have an interest in exploiting that perceived weakness. On the other hand, if we're too heavy handed, then actions that we take will be misconstrued, mischaracterized, videotaped, and broadcast or cybercast out of context, and we'll take a beating in the press and in the court of public opinion."
The less than homogenous response within the law enforcement community is also predictable, given the varying geo-political environments impacted and the lead-time law enforcement agencies have in confronting OM-generated problems.
Brian Muller, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, notes that the Occupy Movement's proclivity for spontaneous action is a huge concern.
"There is a difference between an 'event' and an 'incident,'" explains Muller. "An event is pre-planned. There is time to gather intel, exploit open source information sources such Facebook and Twitter, and decide what personnel and gear you want in place ahead of time. Within LA County, when we have an OJ verdict coming or a Rose Parade protest, the affected stations coordinate with our Emergency Operations Bureau ahead of time. We know what's coming. But an incident is something that is spontaneous. You don't have as much lead time to get your resources in place. And unfortunately, much of law enforcement's responses to the Occupy Movement protests have been the results of an incident type of behavior."
One law enforcement tactic that has elicited howls of protest from Occupy proponents has been infiltration of the movement's ranks by undercover officers.
Rich Rosenthal, chief of the Wellfleet (Mass.) Police Department, doesn't feel their pain. "Not to have used officers in an undercover capacity would have been irresponsible," notes Rosenthal. "There was a threat-indeed, the likelihood-of criminal activity. To place uniform officers directly into that environment would have been neither prudent nor useful in the prevention of civilian injuries."
Ultimately the very nature of its oxymoronic title has found all activists associated with the Occupy Movement being asked, then ordered, to vacate venues en masse. Where push has come to shove, a variety of tools have been called into play. One device finding increasing subsidy within law enforcement circles: Sonic blasters.
Previously deployed at G-20 protest rallies and elsewhere, Long-Range Acoustic Devices are enjoying a jump in sales. Emitting beams of sound with laser-like intensity, a "low end" model is capable of generating 137 decibels. Higher end models such as the LRAD's 500X model can reach 149 decibels. Company spokesperson Robert Putnam told the Associated Press that the sound at close range causes most people to experience discomfort, cover their ears, and move away.