Your duty gear does not include personal political opinion
When a rally can become a riot, police officers are the men and women in the middle, protecting demonstrators’ right to assemble and maintaining peace in the community
If you look around America today you will observe a polarization occurring — you will notice an uptick of contrasting demonstrations occurring at the same place and time. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself these ten questions, and then tell me you don’t see schisms in our land:
1. How do you feel about the mosque near Ground Zero?
Shelving Your Opinions
An example of this is happening in New York even now. The New York Police Department has shined at demonstrations over the mosque proposed by the Cordoba Project two blocks from Ground Zero. They have found themselves right in the middle, where police officers need to be, when working a crowd.
Violence and ROE
Every officer who has worked any of the events demonstrating for or against the issues mentioned earlier can describe hearing some pretty uncomfortable chants, taunts, and challenges at these events. It is important before working these events to know what the rules of engagement are. If an arrest must be made, what kind of actions, or dialog will be sustain an arrest. The last thing an officer wants is for an obnoxious arrestee to not only walk on a charge, but also turn around and drop a federal lawsuit... Not fun!
In the White Noise
The rules of engagement should be made clear by commanders at any pre-event briefing. The District Attorney should be consulted in advance to make certain that the arrests made are defensible (and will be prosecuted). This will ensure that arrests will be made with confidence. There is nothing that riles a crowd more than officers making an arrest while visibly lacking confidence in what they are doing.
There will be different standards for each event. Not a single eyebrow would raise at hearing the words “kill him!” as a quarterback scrambles in the backfield during at a football game. However, the same two words would cause an officer to move quickly and with resolute purpose when shouted in a crowd at a political rally.
When an officer can put themselves ‘mentally in the middle’ and shelve their own opinion, they will be much better able to determine when someone has said or done something that warrants arrest at a demonstration. An officer with a clear understanding (in advance) of the rules of engagement will be much better able to discern between what is simply rude, offensive, bizarre, and what is actually unlawful. Just because it is rude, offensive, bizarre and sometimes not your cup of tea does not necessarily mean it is illegal.
While working the event officers will have thousands of voices to listen to. If they have properly shelved their personal opinions, protected speech and behaviors will have a tendency to become like the white noise on a radio as you are using the dial to search for a channel. With an understanding in advance of what constitutes unprotected speech, at the particular event, that speech will come into focus like your favorite country station on the radio. The officer then can get the assistance needed and form a plan to deal with the situation decisively and legally.
Making Arrests with Efficiency
Nothing says, “We’re the good guys/gals,” like two officers taking an obnoxious, screaming, threatening protestor, quickly and calmly into custody while using identifiable technique.
Opinions are Like...
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