Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Tampa police demonstrate RNC crowd control techniques

TAMPA — Police donned riot gear, rolled out an armored truck and issued a booming announcement from a loudspeaker Thursday.

"This has been declared an unlawful assembly," a man's voice said. "You have 10 minutes to disperse from the area."

Faux protesters continued to pelt objects at police and ram their bodies against the officers' bicycles. Police responded in force.

Several dozen downtown business leaders watched the staged confrontation at Tampa police's training center, filming with smartphones as mock protesters threw tennis balls and officers dispersed colorful smoke into the group.

The clash could be worse in less than two weeks when the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa. Those tennis balls could be bricks. Police could be using pepper spray and firing bean bag rounds.

"I just can't fathom this happening in Tampa," said Monica Matthews, director at a downtown day care. "It's scary."

Matthews and several others attended Tampa police's RNC Citizens Academy to gather information. They want to consider all potential problems so they can prepare. Hyde Park United Methodist minister Vicki Walker said she was reassured by the police's training and promises to respect First Amendment rights.

Police Chief Jane Castor watched the demonstration from a distance. She'd seen mock confrontations before, ones simulating even worse violence.

"There's fear in the unknown," she said. "We want to let people know as best we can what to expect."

After the 2008 RNC in St. Paul, Minn., many residents said they were surprised their city looked like a "police state."

Tampa police say they hope they won't have to use their SWAT equipment and training. They want peaceful protests. But in case the crowd control gear comes out, they want people to be familiar with it.

On Thursday, that included the public's first look at the riot gear — often called "turtle suits."

This protective gear includes padding and armor for officers' arms, legs and torsos, as well as special helmets and clear shields emblazoned with the word "police."

Tampa police said that if downtown visitors see officers in riot gear walking around, it doesn't mean police are expecting a problem.

"We just want to be prepared," said Cpl. Jared Douds.

Police have several tiers in their response plan.

First, officers in cotton khaki uniforms will monitor downtown Tampa in teams.

Their uniforms look friendly, Castor said, and she hopes downtown employees will feel comfortable approaching them.

Then, about 200 officers will patrol on bicycles. Police anticipate these officers will be able to act as city liaisons, giving directions and answering questions. They're also trained in crowd management.

On Thursday, the bicycle squad demonstrated two techniques: In one, the officers line their bikes up, front wheels overlapping with other bikes' back wheels in a makeshift fence. In another move, the officers hold bikes up on their back wheels, creating a taller, more intimidating wall.

A bomb squad will also work the RNC, using trained dogs to sniff for explosives. They've also got a robot and a special truck to deal with potential bombs.

The "grenadier and less lethal force" squad can use pepper spray and 12-gauge shotgun-like weapons to fire beanbag pellets at crowds, if necessary.

"It's a layered approach," Douds said, "if we realize some things have escalated."

SWAT teams will be ready to come in for the most dangerous conflicts.

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

Comments

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang. Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton, is ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man shot, runs for help to Bahama Breeze with suspects following

TAMPA — Attackers shot a Tampa man Monday night as he sat in his car then chased him as he fled to a nearby restaurant to get help, Tampa police said.The victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.The incident occurre...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man pistol-whipped resisting home invasion in Wimauma

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office is looking for three men who broke into a Wimauma mobile home Tuesday morning, beat one of the residents with a pistol, stole cash and carjacked a vehicle to make their getaway.The incident occurred around 5:4...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Captain credited with smart, fast decisions in Port Richey casino boat fire

Captain credited with smart, fast decisions in Port Richey casino boat fire

PORT RICHEY — Michael Batten, the captain of the casino shuttle boat that caught fire Sunday afternoon, made smart, fast decisions that saved lives, according to a spokeswoman for the boat’s owner.Batten, captain of the Island Lady, decided against h...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

By Zachary T. SampsonTimes Staff WriterLong before a shuttle ship from Tropical Breeze Casino caught fire Sunday off the coast of Port Richey, leaving one passenger dead, the company behind the operation was a source of controversy.The casino operato...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Heartbreak and jealously were the twin engines driving the scheme, police would later say. Ishnar Marie Lopez-Ramos was in love. The object of the 35-year-old Floridian’s affection, however, was tangled up with another woman. To solve her hear...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

TAMPA — Shortly before Christmas, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s pilot Jason Doyle was flying a department helicopter over east Hillsborough when he saw the lights of a drone. It was about 800 feet below him and a half-mile away, and quite bright, sai...
Published: 01/16/18