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Crowd Control: Planning for Civil Disobedience

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 49 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 158-162
Scott Winegar
Date Published
October 2001
5 pages
This article presents information on strategies developed and utilized by law enforcement agencies in the handling of civil disobedience and crowd control, and outreach efforts to alleviate community concern over strategies used.
History has presented law enforcement with many civil disturbances or riots, such as sporting events, labor disputes, and college campus activities. The smallest department can be faced with an out-of-control crowd. Many of these situations can be anticipated and law enforcement can be better prepared. When crowd control is necessary, a department needs to know where they stand with both the governing body and the public in order to measure their response plan. The article begins by addressing concerns from the community and law enforcement's attempts at outreach. A Citizens' Academy takes citizens through some of the skills taught to recruits, offering them a greater understanding. In addition, agencies can show members of the political body what officers are trained to do and how they developed their response plan. The following steps are discussed regarding dealing with a potentially out-of-control crowd: (1) in the preparatory phase, clearly defining the Rules of Engagement; (2) study crowd control and police momentum; (3) develop a plan prior to engaging with an unlawful crowd; (4) use tactics to channel and direct the crowd movement; (5) sustain the police response for more than 12 hours; and (6) upon completion of a successful mission, review the pros and cons of the event and record the information for potential strategy changes. Preparing a department for civil disturbances includes obtaining the political will, educating the community, and readying the agency.