The 1980 McDuffie riots of 1980 caused law enforcement to re-evaluate the tactics needed to stem a civil disturbance. There is a progression formula that leads from peaceful protest to civil disturbance to chaotic unfocused uncontained violence and destruction. The Miami Police Department created the “Miami Plan” which was then presented to many police departments across the nation as a viable blueprint. Many adopted the plan but now in 2020 they seem to have abandoned the lessons from our past and created the havoc in our future. These bullet points will illustrate a proven solution and unfortunately the consequence of not utilizing the plan.
Mistake: 2020 law enforcement has erroneously subscribed to the notion that bringing out large apparatuses and multiple waves of equipment will be a deterrent to people who are protesting or have lawless intentions. Flooding an area with uniformed cars in synchronized lines and with lights and sirens is nothing more than a testosterone parade. This is a logistical lose/ lose situation. Each car needs to be manned, fueled, and driven. This is a 1 to 1 ratio. One officer per car. When those officers exit the vehicle they are now unmanned, unprotected, suspect to be vandalized or stolen. Once inside a hot zone and the crowd moves, disperses, or reforms those pristine lines of cars are easy targets.
Solution: 1980 law enforcement broke into smaller squads with a span of control more micro oriented rather than full city macro. Four officers per car, doors slightly open for quick deployment. Each squad had officers linked via markings and radio to each other. Each vehicle marked with shoe polish on windshields for aviation unit recognition. Each vehicle was designed to drive in and squelch small uprisings before they became large demonstrations. Rapid response, quick deployment, jump out and move. All moving at a 4 to 1 ratio. Four officers per one vehicle. If a vehicle is lost it is only one vehicle not four. If arrests are made a mobile arrest team with an escort field force vehicle sweeps in gathers the arrestees and they are whisked away so the field force can go onto the next hot spot.
Mistake: 2020 law enforcement fails to see the physical cues that are in front of them. Peaceful protestors are a host body. They unwillingly and without known consent harbor and bring the individuals with them that have criminal and destructive intentions who mix in with them. So what are the cues? The criminal element is traditionally not long tenured and cannot forestall their intentions. They arrive later in the day after protests have established their positions. They act and dress often differently. They have gas masks and exterior protective clothing. They align themselves in packs of 2-5. Once peaceful protestors have established themselves it is via intelligence, visual cues that law enforcement must weed out the lawless ones from the peaceful masses.
Solution: Allowing the protestors to determine where you will set your line. Direct the protestors to a designated area you have predetermined to be suitable. Open space, possibly if available portable toilets, and a place for the media to freely interact with them and you. A silent front line of officers who stare straight ahead with shield and face protection is not sending the message intended. You can dialogue at the front line. You can part the line and allow the peaceful protestors to assemble in a quadrant partially adjacent to your line. You are acting like a “nightclub bouncer” allowing the selected behaving protestors into an area you have deemed acceptable for them. As the peaceful protestors file in to the area you can discretely redirect and usher the agitating individuals away, to another arrest area, or simply make it known the agitators are being removed so the peaceful protestors can be heard and express themselves. Block all entrances and exits to expressways. It is easier to contend with 14 protesters across your street than 140 protesters across eight lanes of highway.
Mistake: 2020 Not working within your community. Immediately the governing county should pass an ordinance that no aerosol paints will be sold for 30 days at Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware etc.… Remove the availability of vandalizing tools. Not having ongoing updates and intel on subversive groups and the temperature of your community even in peaceful and quiet times is a recipe for disaster. Not having an ongoing relationship with building and zoning, and construction permits which will tell you which sites are prone to have piles of bricks or tools and equipment that can be used against society is a big error as well. Having two officers per agency whose full responsibility is to always critical think worse case scenarios and file internal reports is key to early and easy mitigation. Shut down all inbound public transportation to hot spot areas and redirect those buses etc. to outbound so that people can leave the area but if they want to come into an area they will have to find their own transportation. Contact corporate Uber and Lyft and designate your hot zones as unserviceable for 72 hours. Combine all towing services in your city and tow all cars illegally parked in your hot zones. All arrestees in a civil disturbance upon arrest processing should have their hands sprayed with any one of a number of harmless odorless colorless agents available that will indelibly stay upon their hands invisible except to a black Ultra Violet (UV) light for months. Upon being released hours later should they come back to be arrested again and their hands under a UV list show the chemical agent they will now face felony charges.
Mistake: 2020 Public information Officers (PIO) for the agencies have to stop talking only to the media and start talking to the community. The media will get their story and sound bites. Speak to the people you serve and protect. Anyone with a camera and a blog and a $55.00 LLC can say they are a news outlet and that they are “PRESS.” It is incumbent on the PIO to issue a limited set of PRESS civil disturbance credentials to each legitimate designated local print/visual/student/ news agency. These highly visible and recognized civil disturbance credentials will allow these PRESS individuals complete and unobstructed access. A list of the individuals that the news outlets supplied the PRESS credentials to will be given to the PIO and updated for any changes every six months. Embrace community leaders, clergy and long term residents into your thinking and planning circles.
Take home police cars are a big savings to cities and counties. The cars are operated less and maintenance costs are reduced, and the officers take better care of the cars. As of November 2020 any new hire and all new hires from that date on MUST LIVE IN THE COUNTY THEY WORK FOR. Being a tax payer in a county and having that talented officer and that vehicle leave your county every day to live in an adjacent county is partially why these events are happening. Tax dollars and law enforcement presence are fleeing the county each day in those cars. That officer is putting the earnings he/she earned in their work county into the tax base, sales tax, restaurants, barber shops, private schools and church collection plates of a neighboring county. Police officers will respond to burglaries and robberies but turn a blind eye to graffiti, the uptick in homeless individuals panhandling, and small societal ills because they don’t live in those communities. When you live in the community or county that you police you are more engaged. You will coach a little league team in your own community, you will patronize a local business in your own community and forge relationships and bonds.
Get away from the polo shirts, BDU military style pants and start looking like a uniformed and recognizable police department. Having “POLICE” in broad font across the back of a polo shirt and only your name or division scripted on the front is not full police presence. Every detective should wear a uniform at least one day a week. It adds physical presence as they move about the community and reminds them that they are police officers first not a GIU detective or some other detached specialized unit. The elusive comment of “I don’t do that I’m school resource…I’m marine patrol…I’m a detective” are over. You are a law enforcement officer first and foremost.
Remove the titles like Lieutenant, Sergeant, from the quarter panels of police cars. It creates elitism and is actually subjecting those supervisors for targeting as any well trained adversary knows that removing command from an equation causes confusion. That car does not belong to you. No more Miami Dolphin floor mats, Semper Fi decals, or macho stickers.There is a reason why it is called “Uniformed Patrol” as in all is uniformed.
Intelligence. Intelligence. Intelligence….how much can I say it? Intelligence and information must flow up from the concrete to the carpet. Know your community. Get out of the armament of the car and interact with the citizens. Be available, approachable, and accessible.
Michael Hearns is a 27 year veteran South Florida police officer and detective who spent 10 years undercover in drug cartels. He is a former SWAT team lead penetrator and a certified officer survival instructor. He is the author of the popular fiction book “Trust No One “ available for purchase from Amazon, target, Walmart