Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

Law enforcement trains to stay calm during RNC

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Law enforcement won't allow violent assaults at the Republican National Convention. They won't stand for property damage, either.

But up to that point, they plan to let a lot slide.

Baiting has long been a way to get police to react. Protesters yelled "Pigs!" and "I smell bacon!" at the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, Minn. Some lunged threateningly at officers. Others dangled doughnuts. Cameras recorded the officers' reactions.

Tampa expects its officers to be even-tempered. Actions that appear to be assaults could be traps.

"We don't expect any officer to be a victim of an offense, to be assaulted or battered," said Tampa police Assistant Chief John Bennett. "But at the same time, people are going to try to goad (police) into overresponding."

To ensure the approximately 3,000 officers from across the state expected at Tampa's convention share the same philosophy, Tampa police and the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office have been hosting a series of two-day leadership training sessions.

Law enforcement supervisors and commanders are learning how to respond to baiting, and brushing up on First Amendment issues. They're mastering radio and report-writing procedures — and the geography of Tampa.

"We've got a lot of officers coming here who have never been to Tampa," said Hillsborough sheriff's Col. Ed Duncan.

They're also getting a rundown of heat-related issues because it will be the supervisors' responsibility to send exhausted officers to safety, Duncan said.

About 250 supervisors are going through the training. Most are from the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, though about 60 agencies from across Florida will join.

This extra training is essential, Bennett said, because even though every officer has gone through police and sheriff's academies, people vary in experience, agencies have different policies and many officers haven't faced baiting.

Bennett saw this tactic firsthand at the NATO summit in Chicago in May. He believes some protesters were aiming for lawsuits.

So during training last week, Hillsborough authorities shared photos and videos of protesters taunting police, with signs, words and gestures. The goal is to desensitize the officers so they won't be shocked.

"Everyone has a First Amendment right," Duncan said, and that includes offensive language, he said.

In Tampa, law enforcement is aiming for a middle-ground between tough and tolerant. That's where the team concept comes into play.

Though officers may have to make split-second decisions if protesters personally threaten them, many major decisions will come from the supervisor level, Bennett said.

Teams will stick together, so if one feels threatened, that officer is supposed to assess the danger from the perspective of the group. The threat level is different if an officer is alone on patrol, he said.

"You're deployed as a team, so you work as a team," Bennett said.

At the training, supervisors are also being told to expect protesters to record and photograph their actions — and law enforcement shouldn't object unless the protester is physically interfering with official police duties, Bennett said. It's part of being a public servant and working in a public space, he said.

"They can't take offense to someone taking a picture or videotaping," he said.

These supervisors will each lead a group of officers, most divided up by zones, as Tampa police do daily.

Business owners should know who is in charge of their block, and this "community-oriented policing" approach gives law enforcement ownership and accountability, Bennett said.

"You get to know your block and build relationships," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Comments
Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

TAMPA — The mother of a 7-year-old girl stood weeping in a federal courtroom, demanding life-long prison sentences for the Tampa couple who sexually assaulted her daughter while the girl’s own father took videos and pictures. "I don’t want my child t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

A former Brooksville school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting teenage foreign exchange students who were under his care was found dead last week, a day before he was due in court on the charges.The body of Bruce McAllister was found at the bas...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — Crews from Pasco County fire rescue were battling a fire Wednesday morning that sent smoke pouring through the roof at the Brass Flamingo adult club, 9034 U.S. 19.The fire forced the closing of U.S. 19 but traffic was flowing again by 6...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Published: 11/22/17
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Published: 11/21/17

28-year-old man shot dead in Spring Hill home, deputies say

SPRING HILL — A 28-year-old man was shot and killed inside a Spring Hill home Monday night, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies responded to at least two separate 911 calls about 8:15 p.m., in which callers reported shots being...
Published: 11/21/17
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17

Crash involving bicyclist closes EB lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — Eastbound lanes on W Kennedy Boulevard were reopened by 6:30 a.m. at S Parker Street in downtown Tampa after a bicyclist was struck early Tuesday morning.The crash occurred in front of the University of Tampa, according to broadcast reports.W...
Published: 11/21/17
In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

In wake of killings, Seminole Heights hosts supper to thank first responders

TAMPAKenny Hoffa surprised everyone when he made the seven-hour drive from Charleston, S.C., to Tampa’s Seminole Heights to attend a dinner set up to thank police for working hard to solve a string of recent killings.For Hoffa, it was an easy decisio...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17