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No Magic Weapon for Crowd Management

The makers of Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) have reported significant increases in sales following the Occupy Movement’s first phase of activity last year.

Some buyers, I hope, understand that they’re buying a very effective loudspeaker. Others, I suspect, think that they’re buying a magic crowd management weapon, a silver bullet that will maintain order and clear crowds simply by turning it on – the manufacturers do not represent it as doing that.

In the run up to the G8/NATO, RNC and DNC National Significant Security Events allow me to once again make clear that there is no such thing as a magic crowd management gun/weapon/whatever. There is no technological replacement for training police and their commanders well in tactics and doctrine that actually works – as opposed to the current models in place for potential violence in most of U.S. law enforcement.

The search for magic weapons include the complete directory of less lethal technologies, such as pepper ball and other trajectory weapons, pepper spray, LRAD and CS smoke. Hoping that a weapon system such as CS smoke will somehow be an effective policing response is misguided: the use of CS smoke or any indiscriminate aerosol is not only ineffective, it’s stupid; punishing everyone for potentially the crimes of a few, or punishing everyone with a disproportionate use of force, is not only unconstitutional, it’s counterproductive.

The best deterrent to truly criminal behavior is to identify criminals, such as those committing or inciting violence, gathering evidence against them, and successfully arresting and prosecuting them.

In too many fields in life there is the search for the magic piece of equipment that will solve the problem, when the solution is very straightforward and simple: develop good doctrine and tactics, hold everyone (police and protestors) accountable for their behavior, train the police well and trust in their judgment.

Sam Rosenfeld blogs on protestor management, security sector reform, and the intersection of security and financial issues. Chairman of The Densus Group, Rosenfeld is a former British Army infantry officer who served for eleven years in many of the world’s more contentious environments. He holds an MBA from Wharton Business School, a MSc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management, and a BA(Hons) in International Relations and Strategic Studies. Read More