Police to receive more crowd-control training
Goal is to avoid chaos at protests
NEW HAVEN — Police officers will soon receive additional crowd-control training in an effort to enhance their current practices following a surge in public demonstrations in the city and across the country.
New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman said 45 officers, including four sergeants and one lieutenant, will receive additional crowdcontrol training. Hartman said providing additional training for officers results from the increase in demonstrations starting last year, many of which can be traced back to protesters denouncing the rise and subsequent election of President Donald Trump last November.
At a demonstration on the Green in July that drew counter-protesters, three people were arrested on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges and one person was issued a summons.
Hartman said he did not have details about what the training would entail since the training hasn’t started. He said the sergeants — who each will be leading a team of 10 police officers — and a lieutenant, will be going out-of-state to learn the new training likely very soon. The higher ranking officers will then train the remaining 40 officers involved.
Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the department would eventually like to have a quarter of the department trained with the additional crowd control measures, or a total of about 100 officers. The training will include acquiring additional tools used in crowd control measures such as batons, helmets, shields, larger canisters of pepper spray and megaphones, Campbell said.
As the number of demonstrations increased nationwide and in New Haven, Campbell said the number of participants in the demonstrations grew as well. New Haven has a long history of mostly peaceful demonstrations held downtown, and city police have often been known to protect those demonstrating by stopping or rerouting traffic.
“The reality is, I hope these officers never have to utilize this training,” Campbell said.
However, he said, “We’d rather take charge and provide them with the training and equipment that they need.”
The new training will make crowd control response “more effective,” Hartman said, adding it will ensure the safety of officers and citizens.
The training will build upon what officers already learn in the academy, Hartman said. The new training will provide more uniformity among officers who are tasked with crowd control. The training will enhance de-escalation tactics Hartman said were “pioneered” by New Haven police.
“Every cop now has worked events (and ) done crowd control,” Hartman said. “The problem is if you don’t establish a system where people are on the same page. … You end up with chaos.”
“This is a chaos elimination effort,” Hartman added.
There have been at least two large-scale demonstrations in the city this year that resulted in arrests of demonstrators or participants — an anomaly by New Haven standards in previous years. There are other, sit-in demonstrations — including the arrest of 23 Yale University students whose charges were later dropped — that may not involve marching but have led to arrests.
In fact, before a Feb. 4 demonstration denouncing Trump, no one had been arrested during previous marching demonstrations after the November election. Two men were arrested during the Feb. 4 demonstration, which involved demonstrators blocking a highway ramp. One arrest was made by Connecticut State Police while another was made by New Haven police.
The July 8 scheduled event involved the group called the Proud Boys on the city Green and turned violent, resulting in New Haven police arresting three and issuing one summons on-scene.
Campbell said this incident “solidified” the department’s need for additional training.
New Haven attorney Patricia Kane has represented 14 protesters in New Haven involved in demonstrations from February through July. She originally represented both men arrested and charged during February’s protest. Kane was not present during July’s demonstration but said she saw video footage of the arrest of one individual during July’s demonstration on the Green.
“They were not engaged in any activity that justified an arrest,” Kane said. “But two people did assault two of the Proud Boys … that was uncharacteristic violence. New Haven protests are known for being nonviolent.”
Kane alleged police arrived late to the scene and added: “There should have been barriers separating the group.”
Kane said she would like New Haven police to adopt recommendations from Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit police research and policy organization.
Hartman said the department’s decision on training was largely based on last year’s protests; he said there were more demonstrations in the past year than he had ever seen in the past 23 years as an officer.
Hartman said they have heard comments from “career protesters” over police response, though he said the department is not interested in “their insistence that they’re allowed to do what they’re doing.” He further added that he wants to remind people that the New Haven Police Department isn’t associated with President Trump or the federal government, in that they have no say in policies enacted by the administration.
“People do not have the right to disobey the lawful order of a police officer,” Hartman said. “You have a right to voice your opinions. You have a right to wave your signs, even yell at the top of (your) lung(s). What you don’t have is the right to infringe on other people’s right.”
“A Day Without Immigrants” marchers walk from the New Haven Green from a Rally onto Church Street en route to Fair Haven in New Haven on May 1, protesting the United States’ immigration and alleged ‘exploitation’ policies.