Police Talk Strategies for Handling Mass Protests
ST. CLOUD --From blocking off freeways to setting off fireworks in a crowd, several mass protests around the world have turned violent over the past decade.
Tuesday, Ramsey County Deputy Sheriff, Steve Frazer spoke in St. Cloud for the MN Chiefs of Police Association Executive Training Institute about the change in how mass protests are handled by law enforcement.
With being one of the primary officials in command during the protests last July in St. Paul after the officer involved shooting of Philando Castile, Frazer says safety during mass protests is law enforcement officials top priority.
"If we know an event is coming our goal in St. Paul and Ramsey County is always no violence and no arrests. That's our goal, we go into it thinking we want to let the people have whatever their voice is and whatever issue it is express that. We know sometimes that sometimes can be off putting to members of the community, sometimes it can be off putting to officers individually or collectively. But really we don't care about the content of the message we care that everyone's safety is protected."
Planning ahead and talking with protest groups is also a strategy police are now using. Frazer says the more police can work with the protesters the more they can keep people out of harms way and help prevent the protest from turning into a riot.
"Things like staying off the interstate, hey will help you to march around on a secondary road is some of the planning we put into it. Hey we know you want to give a speech or a march or have a series of speeches, this would be a safe location to do it where you can get your message across, maybe stop traffic get the photo opt but not be in danger of you getting run over."
Social media has played a major role in how mass protests are organized by groups and handled by law enforcement. Frazer says the more law enforcement agencies stay active on social media can help them plan see upcoming protests and strategize for them.
During the mass protests last July as many as 6,000-7,000 people crowded I-94 and the surrounding streets. Frazer says trying to control this large of a crowd could not be done by only one department, agencies need to come together when controlling such a large crowd.
"St. Paul is the second largest department in the state but we are no where near big enough to handle a large scale event by ourselves. Even if you start pairing up all the departments in the metro area you still might not have all of the resources so you need to reach to that next level. And really talk at statewide, region-wide, events like this to see if everyone is on the same page training, skills-wises and leadership-wise."
Frazer says everything comes down to building relationships in the community, talking with protest groups before hand and forming those allies among agencies to help prevent violence. He says if these steps are taken and communication lines stay open protests should remain peaceful.