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by Peter Moskos

April 28, 2015

Baltimore Police Riot Training

Well, that did not go well.

When the fires hit the Eastern, I felt it got personal.

I can't believe nobody got killed. Hell, by that standard, it was a peaceful night in the city.

In the academy, we got less than one (1) day of riot training. This are my notes from Tuesday, April 4, 2000, in their entirety:
Started by watching a video of characteristics of armed suspect: the shoulder dip, the stiff arm, the coat swing, security checks--all of these are grounds for reasonable suspicion and a stop and frisk.

[Instructor 1]: “Don’t walk the line [between legal and illegal]. Often times the department says you can do something, but if you do it against someone with a little pull and they sue you, the department won’t back you.”

“I’m a peon here and my opinion don’t count for much. [regarding getting more time for crowd control]”

“You should be happy you’re going to the Eastern and Western. You’ll learn a lot there. Just keep a good attitude. Stay humble.”

[Classmate 1, a white guy:] “I can’t wait to go to Sarajevo.”

[Classmate 2, a black guy:] “These neighborhoods aren’t that bad. I grew up in the Western. Am I a bad person? There are lots of good people there.” “But a lot of these people aren’t from these areas. They don’t know.” [Classmate 3, a black guy]

“The Eastern and Western are where most of the IID numbers come from... people get burnt out.”

“Keep your contacts here. If you don’t you’re going to have a hard time.

For class, we’ve watched a few episodes of “In the Line of Duty.”

“These college students who think their stuff don’t stink and want to mouth off. I get to arrest them. And it was fun.”
There is no G.O. [general order] on crowd control.

Crowds: there are passive and hostile crowds.

“In Japan, I saw where they bring in buses and let a few people out and beat them. Them they let a few more out and beat them. After that everything is OK. But we have something that stops us from doing it.”

“The ACLU?”

“No, civil liberties, the constitution.”

Our goal: containment, isolation, dispersal.

“Yes, we’ve already been tested on this.” This was a test question yesterday that we were “reviewed” on.

“This academy is a joke” [said Instructor 1]

“As a person penetrates the front line, you will wack them, hit them, beat them down.... This is the one time we will tell you to strike a person.”

We spent the day doing riot formations. Kind of fun. Kind of. But also another long boring day. At one point, though, [instructor 2] slammed his baton into the floor, ran up to [classmate 4] and screamed, “What are you nodding at?! Do you know everything?! You’re creating a hostile working environment because you’re pissing me off!!!” [Classmate 4] sucked it up. It was such an unnecessary yelling event that I found it funny.

275 of last year's [305] murders were of blacks.

Norris is now in charge, says the news.
That's it. Let's hope training has gotten better, though I doubt it has.

[Update: From a comment by Adam, below:
When I went through the BPD academy (in 2008) there was more extensive riot training, done at the firearms training facility. We learned and drilled formations: "V"-shape, a straight line, etc. It wasn't very lengthy training (I obviously can't remember much of it), but it was more substantial than what you describe.
An NYPD officer tells me "Your description of riot training is spot on. We were actually told that we'll probably never do the stuff they taught us.

11 comments:

Jeremy said...

I just finished the chapter from Cop in the Hood on the Academy. Man, it's all there, in the notes from that day: boredom, abuse, half-training, advice on survival.

Thanks much.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off-topic: It seems like the proximate cause of the young man's death is failure of the wagon crew to ensure he was buckled in. In most PD's, the wagon is a pretty good spot - almost as good as an inside spot. Which means it's held by people with seniority and/or clout.

Do we have any indication of who the wagon man (woman) was?

Peter Moskos said...

I still don't know who was driving the wagon. But yeah, indeed, it's usually (though not always) a paunchy guy with 30 years on, coasting another year or two till retirement.

Adam said...

When I went through the BPD academy (in 2008) there was more extensive riot training, done at the firearms training facility. We learned and drilled formations: "V"-shape, a straight line, etc. It wasn't very lengthy training (I obviously can't remember much of it), but it was more substantial than what you describe.

Peter Moskos said...

Thanks. Very good to know.

Yeah, it didn't help that we were stuck in the gym at the old academy on Guilford.

Be careful out there. And thank you.

Anonymous said...

In terms of the rank and file (not the top leaders or squad leaders), what might they have done differently Monday night if they had been well-trained in anti-riot tactics?

Peter Moskos said...

Too early to Monday morning quarterback. The game is still on.

Anonymous said...

My point in the wagon-man question was: wouldn't it be ironic if the person whose negligence caused the youth's death was a connected AA copper?

Kind of disrupts the narrative.

OTOH, it could help bring about a soft landing for the whole thing if the negligent copper is himself/herself an actual 'neighborhood honor student, who really did turn his/her life around, and just made one little mistake....'

Peter Moskos said...

Very well could be. But who knows.
But then the narrative will turn to police abuse in general. From past incidents, it's about race till the cop isn't white. Then it's about police.

Adam said...

My sources tell me that the wagon man is sure to be charged criminally, and that he is African American. A second cop (they believe it's the sergeant) is also likely to be charged. He's also black. We'll see whether that all turns out to be true, and if so, what effect it has on the dialogue.

Peter Moskos said...

I hear the same thing, for what it's worth.