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Police Tactics Seen in Nearly 400 Protest Videos.

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Talia Buford, Lucas Waldron, Moiz Syed, and Al Shaw have a very interesting report in ProPublica:

AS PROTESTS DENOUNCING POLICE BRUTALITY against unarmed Black people spread to thousands of cities, it was videos of police violence — this time, directed at protesters — that went viral. Clips showed officers launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, shooting pepper spray from moving vehicles and firing foam bullets into crowds.

ProPublica looked at nearly 400 social media posts showing police responses to protesters and found troubling conduct by officers in at least 184 of them. In 59 videos, pepper spray and tear gas were used improperly; in a dozen others, officers used batons to strike noncombative demonstrators; and in 87 videos, officers punched, pushed and kicked retreating protesters, including a few instances in which they used an arm or knee to exert pressure on a protester’s neck.

While the weapons, tactics and circumstances varied from city to city, what we saw in one instance after another was a willingness by police to escalate confrontations.

Experts said weapons that aren’t designed to be lethal, from beanbag rounds to grenades filled with pepper spray, can make officers more willing to respond to protesters with force and less disposed to de-escalate tense situations. Not only can some of these weapons cause considerable injury to protesters, particularly if misused, but experts say the mere presence of the weapons often incites panic, intensifies confrontations and puts people on all sides at risk.

And of course, unlike a mass demonstration urging action on an issue like climate change, the protests over police brutality are directed squarely at the officers standing watch. Any use of force can remind protesters what brought them into the streets in the first place and redouble their outrage.

To better understand the dynamics at play, ProPublica spoke to several experts on policing and enlisted two of them to review a selection of eight representative videos in which ProPublica could clearly identify problematic conduct by the police. We break down four of those videos below, accompanied by the experts’ assessment of the police tactics displayed.

The videos have forced the public to confront the reality of dangerously excessive responses by officers against protesters, but will that reckoning be short lived?

Experts said how police respond to demonstrations is, in part, dictated by the availability of nonlethal weapons and on how officers are trained to use them.

In 2016, Haar surveyed 25 years of research on crowd-control weapons used around the world, including three commonly used in the United States: projectiles such as rubber bullets or beanbag rounds; chemical irritants such as tear gas; and disorientation devices known as flashbangs. Her report found that when fired, tear gas canisters can cause vision loss or other traumatic injuries.

“These are all weapons that should be used as a last resort when open dialogue and communication fail and the violence is so out of hand that normal policing methods and arresting people have been tried and don’t work,” Haar said.

The size of protests also influences how police respond, Straub said. Small protests can likely be handled by specialized units that are regularly tasked with managing crowds. Larger protests may require many more officers, some of them drawn from parts of police departments that have less experience and training in crowd control and de-escalation, and thus may be more likely to resort to weapons.

In the Washington video, by not rushing the crowd when a protester threw a bottle, Straub said, the officers remained calm and acted with “restraint.” It would be unfair, Straub said, to require the police to analyze what protesters are throwing at them before reacting, given how quickly such an encounter could escalate. “One person throws a water bottle, five people throw water bottles, and then somebody throws a brick,” he said.

Experts said how quickly officers choose to deploy weapons in the field depends on their training, which can vary widely between departments.

No entity sets training standards for police use of force, experts said. However, departments, equipment manufacturers and state officials have mandated that officers undergo training before they are allowed to use nonlethal weapons. Depending on the training, officers may be taught how to shoot weapons so they “skip off the pavement” in order to decrease their velocity and risk of serious injury.

In firing their guns, officers are taught to aim at the person’s torso because it reduces the risk that a bystander will be struck. But with nonlethal weapons, officers are often instructed to avoid the torso, head or groin, said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, a trade group for SWAT teams that also conducts training for police departments. Precise aim in a crowd is extremely difficult, he said.

“We explain to them that in a crowd control situation, it’s a dynamic environment,” Eells said. “It’s not the same as a paper target.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including video.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2020 at 8:04 pm

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