Crowd Control, Active Shooter Rules OK’d

Eino Sierpe photoPolice commissioners voted to adopt two new rules about how officers should respond during active shooter situations and during large public protests.

They also voted to withhold those two new rules from public view and consideration, leaving at least one local activist wary of what to expect from the police during the next peaceful demonstration downtown.

That was the result of Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners on the third floor of the police headquarters at 1 Union Ave.

The commissioners voted unanimously to adopt two new general orders: one about police strategy around active shooter situations, one about police strategy around crowd control and management.

Thomas Breen photoBefore voting on the orders, the board unanimously agreed to discuss the orders’ contents and merits in executive session (i.e. in private, without the presence of media or members of the public).

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act law allows for five exceptions to meetings that otherwise must remain public. Public meetings can go into executive session to discuss individual officers or employees; strategies or negotiations regarding pending litigation; public safety and security concerns; real estate discussions that, if made public, may adversely affect the price of a lease, sale, or purchase; or discussion of any matter that would result in the disclosure of a public record that is exempt from disclosure.

On Tuesday night, commissioners cited the third reason, public safety, for going into executive session to discuss these new orders. Michael Wolak, the city’s senior assistant corporation counsel, said that the orders involve “investigatory techniques not known to the general public.”

“There are things in there that would put people at risk if they knew what the police were doing,” he said.

Asst. Chief Racheal Cain said that, even after the orders were voted on, signed by the chief, and adopted by the department, they would not be made available to the public.

“The contents of the general orders are confidential because they’re tactical in nature,” she said.

Chief Anthony Campbell said that, while he could not disclose any details as to the strategies included in either order, he could confirm that they both arose in response to training the department already had in place.

Campbell said the department drafted an active shooter order in response to tactical concerns experienced by police forces around the country in response to a wave of lethal mass shootings, from San Bernardino, California to Parkland, Florida.

“We’ve been doing this realistically since Columbine,” he said, “but we are trying to make sure that we have a general order in place to cover everything that we do.”

He said the department wants to have formalized documentation regarding officer responses to active shooter situations so that “in the future, should there be any issues, you’ve got legal backing as to why you did what you did. Not simply saying, ‘It was in line with our training.’ You need to have some documentation as to what your training is.’”

As for the crowd control and management general order, Campbell said the department wanted formal documentation describing the new training the department has put in place over the course of a year that has seen a number of high profile public protests.

In September 2017, commissioners updated two standing general orders with allowances for a new 100-officer crowd control unit to be equipped with bigger pepper-spray battles, larger batons, and new crowd control training.

The department formed the crowd control unit in the wake of confrontations in Charlottesville, Seattle and San Francisco between white supremacists and anti-fascists, as well as after two local downtown protests with controversial police responses: one in February 2017, during which police arrested two protesters during an anti-Trump rally that blocked portions of Route 34; and one in July 2017, when counterdemonstrators clashed with a right-wing group called the Proud Boys.

“We’ve done crowd control through posts in the academy and usually that was it,” Campbell said about crowd control training to the present. “But we found that we were having more incidents on the green. As things that are happening nationally start happening at a smaller scale [in New Haven], we want to address those issues.”

When asked why he thought the crowd control general order should remain invisible to public view, Campbell said, “Anything, whether it’s crowd control, active shooter, responding to banks, responding to anything that deals with tactics, you don’t lay your cards out on the table for the ‘bad guys,’ as we like to say in police jargon, to have a floor plan of exactly what you’re going to do. That not only can be detrimental to your progress in fighting crime, but it can be an officer safety issue.”

Markeshia Ricks photoPatricia Kane, a civil rights lawyer who has represented a number of activists arrested by the New Haven police, expressed skepticism after the meeting of the department’s reasons for keeping the crowd control order secret.

“If I’m planning a protest,” she said, “I want to know what kinds of things the police are prepared to do, what kinds of instances will set off what actions. When will they start tasing people? When will they take out the drones?”

She said the vast majority of New Haven protests are nonviolent, and that police responses to nonviolent protests in the past have been “terribly uneven,” with officers exhibiting “emotional, disorganized, and aggressive” behavior.

She said one key takeaway from the Charlottesville protest last year, which resulted in a white supremacist plowing a car into a crowd of anti-fascists and killing one of the counterdemonstrators, should be that the police need to separate opposing groups more quickly during a contentious public demonstration.

“How does it hurt the public to know that when there’s a crowd situation, the police are going to separate the two groups?” Kane asked. “I want to know that the police are going to protect my people, because my people are not going to fight. If there’s a menacing group, I want the police to step in.”

“We should be looking at the police behavior,” Kane continued, “not the crowd behavior.” She said the police have become so used to secrecy that they fail to recognize a prime opportunity to communicate with the public about how they plan to keep all parties safe.

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posted by: Peter99 on May 11, 2018  12:29pm

A peaceful protest which violates no laws requires zero police response. Peaceful protests are not confrontational, worthy of extended press coverage nor do they draw large crowds. They do on occasion draw counter protesters which usually starts anything from a shouting match to a riot. If you are protesting, not blocking traffic by illegally marching in the street or beating someone with a sign then the cops should stay out of it. Once a group violates a law, disobeys a lawful police directive or starts a fight, then the cops need to do what is necessary to bring peace and order. To reveal police strategy and when or what tipping points they will react to is not good policy.

posted by: Christian Bruckhart on May 11, 2018  1:33pm

Ah, the irony. Would Attorney Kane finally like to comment on how she incongruously demands that police address “quality of life concerns” downtown (e.g. “speeders and people running red lights, as well as motorcyclists with noisy mufflers”) while simultaneously acting as consigliere and/or praising pedestrians who blocked a highway, then city streets; people who chain themselves to buildings; workers who break their employers property, etc.?

Both sets of behaviors create inconvenience, annoyance, and danger to others. Why do you unequivocally support one and universally condemn the other? It seems you want it both ways.

posted by: Patricia Kane on May 11, 2018  1:50pm

There is no irony or incongruity in pressing for enforcement of noise ordinances designed to protect the public’s health and support for the Constitutional right to exercise one’s First Amendment right to confront authority by peaceful protest.
  Protesters in New Haven have a history of peaceful, non-violent protest. And some of those protesters willingly underwent arrest to make their points, whether it was the illegality and dangers of the Dakota Pipeline, - confirmed by a federal court this week - or the the war on refugees fleeing conditions US policies created in Central and South America or demonstrating in support of safety and equality for people of color.
  Many communities “sleep” while the people of New Haven show up repeatedly to bear witness as to the policies and values that support human health and happiness.
  Thanks for asking.
  I feel much better now.

posted by: narcan on May 11, 2018  2:27pm

I was curious if this was the same Patricia Kane that was recently calling for a Gestapo-esque response to loud, but generally transient, motor cycle noise on bikes being operated in an otherwise safe manner while not showing too much concern for motor cycles that were actually being operated recklessly.

I don’t think the sound of a Harley has ever delayed an ambulance from reaching the hospital, or prevented a hard-working, reliable employee from getting to work on time.

What a funny, small world.

posted by: Patricia Kane on May 11, 2018  4:40pm

@narcan: so enforcement of the law is “gestapo-esque”?  So that’s why people run red lights.
  Just because I don’t comment on every aspect of every article does not mean I am not for law enforcement.
  Totally false to say a Harley never delayed an ambulance. You don’t know that for a fact, but you’re still ticked off about Route 34. And you’re still parroting the propaganda the NHPD put out and could NOT prove = because it didn’t happen
  Did you notice the State and the NHPD did NOT want to go to trial because their phony claims would have been exposed? The big lie only works when there’s no one to speak out with the facts. I was there.
  My former clients settled for INFRACTIONS! Just like jay-walking.
  Great work by Attorney Paul Garlinghouse who was prepared to go to trial on these unjustified arrests.
  I realize protests are inconvenient, but so is tyranny and using power to terrorize people.

posted by: Christian Bruckhart on May 11, 2018  6:02pm

Attorney Kane, my disagreement with you isn’t over the content or intent of the protest, it’s with the application. I don’t see anyone in New Haven trying to abrogate first amendment rights or limit the ability to peacefully confront authority. In my opinion, and probably that of the people repeatedly inconvenienced by these events, protesting in a way that infringes on other people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of getting off the highway on time detracts from whatever cause it is you’re espousing.  Especially when there are other equally viable options that don’t have a similarly disruptive impact on the local community.

I’m not one for going back and forth in comments sections (unless it’s about drones, obv). If you want to meet for coffee, I’m always up for a cup or two.

posted by: Statestreeter on May 11, 2018  9:49pm

@patricia kane

Protests aren’t inconvient but blocking the road is and illegal too.  You clients plea deal has nothing to do with the quality or lack there of of the states case. It generally has to do with expediency and expense.  Even if found guilty it’s unlikely a judge would impose any type of sentence that deprived them of much. I’ll give credit to both sides for finding a reasonable solution and not continue to waste taxpayer funded resources that the protestors already did. What the city should do is sue them to recoup the costs of there unlawful actions.

posted by: 1644 on May 13, 2018  12:55pm

Attorney Kane:  You should no that there is no constitutional right to block a highway, be it vehicular or pedestrian.  If your clients feel the need to use a street, get a parade permit and do it in a time, place, and manner when it will be least likely to inconvenience others, and when the police can plan for it.  A small protest on the Green as the Lost Boys held?  Fine, it’s a traditional public place (if privately owned, and a small group in a large, open space cannot block anyone.  Blocking Church Street, as your group, and, earlier, the NHPD protesters, did, is a crime.  Those who engage in such protests, including the police officers, are criminals and should be treated as such.  So, too, with the graduate students who blocked Elm Street on move-out day, causing many Yale College students to miss flights.  Peaceful and non-violent does equate to constitutionally protected.

posted by: Patricia Kane on May 13, 2018  4:41pm

My role in representing protesters to is to advise them on the existing law.
    Burning draft cards was once considered outrageous and provocative, but was eventually determined to be protected speech under the First Amendment.
    Protesting on highways has occurred in a number of jurisdictions, but I know of no US Supreme Court case defining such activity one way or the other. 
    Some people have argued that the lack of media access drives protesters to more extreme locations to convey their message. We seem to have gotten to the point where hundreds of thousands of people can march to oppose another war and it may or may not even be reported, especially on tv news which works off images and sound bytes.
    Whether the message is lost in the controversy is for the public to decide.
    The claims put out by both the State Police and the NHPD as to the effect of the partial closure of route 34 could not be sustained. If the facts supported the claims, there would have been a trial and not a plea bargain to an infraction.
    At this point commentators’ arguments are moot, so I will not comment on this again.

posted by: 1644 on May 13, 2018  8:16pm

One of New Haven’s very own US Supreme Court cases says the power of the state to punish those who interfere with traffic “is obvious.”  Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 308 (1940).