In recent years, we as law enforcement personnel have seen an overwhelming increase in the number, size and violence during protest events. These “rallys” have resulted in millions of dollars in damage, injuries to both police and protesters and during the 2001 riots in Genoa, during the G-8 Summit, the death of a protester. With the need to protect the peace and ensure the rights of ALL concerned, police are thrown into the middle of these events to try and diffuse the hostilities. Each department, has a responding group to deal with these events. No matter what we now call these officers, Public Order Units, Public Safety Units, Mobile Response Teams, Rapid Response Teams, these are now more “user” friendly names for the Riot Squads of the 80’s. One of the biggest issues when dealing with a protest rally is, when do these specially trained officers get deployed? Too soon, and the crowd might be given the impetus to “flash”, too late and damage and injuries might be unnecessarily high. For this reason, many departments use foot officers to monitor the crowds. The problem though, was these officers were either “static” or limited in their mobility. During preparations for the World Petroleum Congress being held in Calgary Alberta Canada, the idea of using bike officers was explored as the first responders to this event. These bike officers could be static or mobile, could ride with a crowd, and set up at numerous potential targets by “leap-frogging” the rally.. Building on a response model from Vancouver B.C. (developed by Sergeant Bert Rainey – LEBA Inst. #003). Calgary developed its own training model to be used during the Congress, and in subsequent events including the 2002 G-8 Summit hosted here.
The purpose of training the Mountain Bike Officers is to add a level of response to a “public order” event. In the past, our ability to respond to these events has been particularly limiting. By adding a level to the overall continuum, the police service can now draw on another level of responders. Much like the Levels of Force continuum, where we have a number of force levels we can escalate to, this works the same way. A peaceful rally (celebration) could be handled by Bike Officers. A rally with the potential towards violence could be initially patrolled by Bike Officers, with Public Order Officers deployed to a staging area. A rally that will likely become violent could be initially patrolled by Bike Officers, with Public Order Officers pre-deployed to that particular location, out of sight preparing for the inevitable escalation. It is important to stress, there is no plan, thought, or idea of using bike officers as a replacement to Public Order Units. Their training, equipment and tactics are essential to maintain public order. What we want to do, is be there, ready and deployed. If an event does escalate, the bikes are then replaced by the Public Order members. These Bike Officers would then be re-assigned to other, related duties. ie. arrest teams, line support, equipment runners.
More and more, departments are looking towards the Bike Teams to offer an initial police presence. With the bike officers, properly trained, police departments can provide a “softer” initial approach to these events. In many cases, this soft approach has prevented potentially volatile situations from escalating.
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