JPD Officers Train to Handle Civil Disturbances, Mob Mentality

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- The saying "expect for the best but train for the worst" couldn't be more true for Jonesboro Police Officers this week.  The group of men and women are learning how to handle civil disturbances as a mobile field force they hope to never have to use.

"In any jurisdiction you can have civil disturbance occur, whether it's planned or a spontaneous disturbance," said instructor Chuck Habermeal of Close Quarter Battle, Inc.

Training like this could have come in handy when Jonesboro Police responded to riot like conditions at the Northeast Arkansas District Fair last August.  Officers now have the weapons and the knowledge to battle mob mentality.

"It's going to give us a game plan, if you will as to how we are going to address certain situation when it comes to big crowds such as the convocation center and the fairgrounds. I think we are all going to benefit from this, even the citizens that will be attending these events," said Cpl. Manuel Clark.

With close to 100 police officers going through the training, their new tactics involve a shield and a baton.

"We can move a crowd to help diffuse a situation, move them in an orderly fashion as a group, rather than individual officers so that hopefully bystander safety is enhanced," said Lt. Mark Mosier.

Habermeal believes the commanding presence of the officers can be enough to settle situations out of control.

"If it's not done correctly, it can lead to both injuries of the citizens and the officers and so it's really important that it's done correctly. Also if it's done correctly the presentation of the unit as they respond is enough to hopefully make the crowd disperse," said Habermeal.

"It's very physical. It's a physical type training that we are going through, lots of maneuvers and of course you have heavy shields and helmets to go along with that training.  We're pretty tired right now, but we're hanging in there," laughed Clark.

The officer's training continues tomorrow.