Author: Lt. Dan Marcou
Forming and becoming a member of a “crowd control team” means that you have made a commitment to ongoing training. Team training should take place shortly before any anticipated event, and at least once a year. The latter can be an opportunity to officially have officers clean and inspect their tactical equipment.
Here’s a 10-point readiness checklist to go through before your team faces a hostile crowd.
1. Is your agency ready?
Does the agency have a plan?
Does an agency have a well-equipped and highly-trained unit to respond to such an event?
Does the unit have the equipment it needs to do its job?
Does the unit commander have the authority to order the actions needed to do the job?
Most agencies not only have no trained team, but they have no crowd control equipment either.
Some agencies are only in possession of the memory of equipment. That is someone remembers that they have it somewhere, buried away in a long-forgotten location. Are you one of those agencies?
The perfect storm of crowd control is when untrained officers are wearing equipment they have never even tried on before, much less trained with, along with an untrained commander, who are sent out to face highly-trained (yes, they do train) rioters. This is not the recipe for success.
2. Is the officer fit enough to wear the mask?
All officers required to wear a gas mask need to have a doctor declare them to be “OK” to wear a gas mask. Breathing through a mask is difficult and it should be determined in advance that wearers do not have a pre-existing cardio-respiratory conditions, or claustrophobia, which will make the wearing of a mask itself dangerous.
3. Does the mask fit the officer?
One other simple check that can be done in-house by a specially trained officer is a fit-test. During this test, an officer dons his/her mask and an identifiable smell is introduced into their environment. If the officer can detect the smell, the mask is not fitting properly. If not, the mask is fitting properly.
The fit-test should be done yearly since conditions change. Masks age, new helmets are purchased, and sometimes officers gain weight, grow beards or have longer hair. All of these circumstances can compromise the fit of a mask.
If you have just formed your team and have never done such testing, check with your local fire department. They will undoubtedly have someone in-house that can help you get started.
4. Are you special munitions ready?
Grenadiers absolutely must inspect their inventory on a yearly basis. Chemical munitions have an absolute shelf life. Munitions beyond the use-by-date should be replaced with new stock. Use old stock in training.
5. Are you equipment ready?
It is a good idea for every team to have a quartermaster, whose responsibility it is to conduct and assist with inspections of all equipment, conduct the fit testing of masks and check use-by dates on chemical munitions. There should be a yearly line-item in the budget for this grenadier to draw from to allow them to quickly purchase items and parts for equipment that need to be replaced/repaired.
The team quartermaster can conduct and standby with the “spare parts kit” as officers don and check all equipment at training. They can assist new team members with donning their protective gear. They also can replace or tighten the inevitable loose and missing screws in the helmets.
Protective gear that has broken straps should not be repaired but replaced. Flopping broken equipment can restrict or block access to your weapons under stress.
6. Are you shield ready?
Shields need to be a part of every yearly inspection, since they are often damaged in storage.
Another issue with shields can be corrected with a quick fix done in advance of an event. Determine if any shields have been set up for use by your left-handed officers. Most shields are designed to allow for changing shield-handle locations to accommodate the right-handed officer or left-handed officer. If you don’t accommodate the left-handed officer, the shield they are carrying will display police or sheriff upside down. It not only detracts from the continuity of the formation, but it also invites taunting/targeting by violent crowd members.
7. Are you baton ready?
Do all team members possess a police baton and carrier of the type your team trains with? Team members must be highly trained in the disciplined use of this valuable crowd control tool and have a carrier, or ring to retain it, when not being used. They must all be experts in the display and use of the baton.
8. Are you communications ready?
Being communications ready is a key ingredient during these personnel-intense events. Being communications ready can range from having enough radios to talk with each other to having a working long range acoustic device, as well as a trained operator to communicate with the crowd.
9. Are you transportation ready?
Transportation ready can mean having enough squads to carry your mobile field force teams. It can also mean having your mounted units and bicycle units trained to operate with your teams.
10. Are your team skills ready?
When you are certain your team members are fit enough, wearing properly fitted masks, and their equipment is in good repair, it is time to conduct their shared skills training.
Once you have done what it takes to answer “yes” to all of these questions, your team will be ready to police either passive or hostile crowds and not only be able to effectively handle both, but also look damn good doing it.