Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2001

Police gear up for action in mock riot

June 14, 2001

If a large and hostile crowd ever riots at Sandstone Amphitheatre or another venue in the city, the Bonner Springs Police Department and other agencies will be ready for action.

Using employees from Sandstone as a mock rioting crowd, police departments practiced what officials said were field force tactics in several different scenarios.

In one scenario, the employees simulated an angry concert mob unwilling to leave the lawn area. Armed with water balloons and tennis balls, the employees pelted officers and used profanity-laced language.

"This will probably be your only chance to assault a police officer without getting in trouble," one woman said.

For the riot squad to set up and advance on the crowd, organization is a key factor, police said.

In dealing with a crowd, officers are armed with protective shields, police batons and pepper spray.

Also brought to the practice session was a manned smoke gun that during riots would shoot tear gas or pepper spray. The Bonner Springs Police Department canine unit will accompany those manning the smoked gun.

Although the riot squad has never been needed at Sandstone, Bonner Springs Police Chief John Haley said each member of the Police Department is issued riot gear.

Haley said the drills are helpful for the Police Department in dealing with a potentially volatile situation.

"We've never had to use it before and I hope we never do," Haley said. "But with a big crowd, it's always a possibility."

Bonner Springs Police Det. Tim Pierce said he had been through the training six times before, but he thought it was helpful to take advantage of the extra practice.

Should the need for the riot squad arise, Haley said the Police Department could mobilize a unit of more than 100 officers in an hour.

With that many officers armed with chemical munitions, Haley said a crowd of 4,000 rioters could be brought under conIn the event there would not be enough officers to deal with an antagonistic crowd, the Police Department could also request help from neighboring cities, Haley said.

Police Department officials said the goal is to quickly scare the crowd into leaving the area. The same rules of force used in regular police work also apply in field force situations, Haley said.

The squad only advances the crowd when it appears a quick resolution is not possible.

Because the officers on the squad wear heavy protective equipment, efforts are always made to avoid a long, drawn-out clash.

"These guys wear a lot of equipment when they do this," Haley said. "It can get really hot with all this stuff on, so when ever you can resolve a situation quickly it helps out."

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