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WEB EXCLUSIVE Following the police brutality—including the use of tear gas—that ensued after peaceful protests in downtown Raleigh in May after the death of George Floyd, the Raleigh Police Department underwent an independent review of their practices, policies and procedures on the use of force and their response to protests and mass gatherings by 21CP Solutions, a group that “helps law enforcement agencies and communities effectively tackle the challenges of policing in the 21st century.” Last week, 21CP Solutions released their report, which also included several after-action recommendations for the RPD.
21CP says they used information and data provided by RPD, RPD personnel in focus groups and community members to conduct the final report, which they also note was not an independent after-action report, nor were they charged with conducting an independent investigation on what did and did not occur during the protests. 21CP then formulated recommendations for future issues based on RPD’s existing policies and national practices.
The report outlines a total of 38 recommendations across eight categories. Below, we summarize key points in each of these eight categories. (According to 21CP Solutions, recommendations are not ranked in any specific order.)
RPD training records obtained by 21CP showed that RPD provides crowd management and incident command training to officers within the National Incident Management System (“NIMS”) framework RPD uses to manage large and complex events. However, 21CP recommends that the police department train additional commanders that are more capable of handling large police actions during critical incidents, and have all officers undergo Mobile Field Force (MFF) and Crowd Management training. 21CP also recommends that whenever RPD gets word of an organized protest, they develop an Incident Action Plan, which would help them effectively manage any civil disorder and subsequent action like arrests. Additionally, this category sheds light on the City of Raleigh’s picket or protest permitting ordinance that requires an application to be approved by the Chief of Police, which 21CP recommends both the city and RPD start enforcing.
Use of Force and De-escalation During Protests
RPD’s policy on the use of force and weapons as of March 26, 2020 stated that “force should be used only when all other means of resolving a situation have been exhausted or are clearly inapplicable” and should only be used when “reasonably necessary to control a situation.” Through interviews with Raleigh community voices, RPD’s After Action Report and video footage, 21CP found that RPD deployed several munitions, including tear gas, foam batons and rubber bullets, on the nights of May 30 and 31.
In their report, 21CP recommends that RPD develop a more clear and specific guidelines on when the use of force is okay in crowd contexts and re-train commanders on when and how to deploy special munitions, including in what circumstances RPD should deploy tear gas. 21CP suggests that RPD find a way to document the use of tear gas, foam batons and/or projectiles for accountability purposes.
Equipment and Resources
Through interviews with RPD, 21CP found that many of the police department’s gas canisters were expired. 21CP recommends that the police department keep an inventory of their equipment to ensure their effectiveness and, should they continue to use chemical munitions, their supply be “vetted for quality and usability.” Additionally, 21CP suggests RPD look into using “soft” protective equipment for Mobile Field Force personnel, which offers similar protection provided by the gear currently worn by RPD’s MFF squads without the intimidating “militarized” look. It may also be helpful, according to 21CP, for RPD to look into CCTV cameras, aerial support and intelligence, small utility vehicles like Gators and sound amplification devices in department-issued gas masks.
21CP Solutions noted that communicating with staff is extremely important when planning for a large-scale event or a critical incident response. They recommended that RPD develop a strategy to communicate clearly and effectively what they expect from MFF during a protest that could potentially turn violent. 21CP said that, through interviews with RPD stakeholders, they discerned that there was no communication strategy in place before the protests on May 30 and 31. 21CP also suggested that there be a debriefing after protest, crowd management and critical incident management shifts.
During the nights of May 30 and May 31, RPD obtained mutual aid from ten different jurisdictions. 21CP recommends RPD review their existing Mutual Aid Agreements and reach out to local and county law enforcement agencies that may be able to offer further protection or resources to them; all agreements should be reviewed annually.
Body Worn Cameras
Nationally, the use of body worn cameras by police officers has increased greatly in recent years. According to an RPD camera policy provided to 21CP, “the use of body worn cameras is prohibited during many protest situations.” 21CP recommends that RPD review this policy to ensure that its requirements are clear within the contexts of protests and crowd management. 21CP also suggests that RPD establish a committee that would convene to manage training, implementation and maintenance of body cameras.
After Action Reports
21CP defines an After Action Report (AAR) as a “process in which ‘following a project or event,’ an organization and its ‘members gather to share insights and identify mistakes and successes.” They recommend that both stakeholders inside and outside of the Raleigh Police Department are involved in the After Action Review process and that all After Action Reports filed detail actions, responsibilities and timeframes, as well as recommendations for future events. The police chief should ensure these actions are being implemented within a regular report.
21CP recommends that after large protests and other incidents, the community should be able to debrief with the department to express any personal experiences or concerns. A third party can further help with communication between police and the community in order to deter violence or conflict. Additionally, RPD should utilize their social media accounts for communicating with protesters and other community members during critical events.
View 21CP Solutions full report of the Raleigh Police Department following the protests in May here.
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