“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle
Law enforcement professionals shall always be held to the highest standard while serving and protecting others. The lessons learned from previous incidents of peaceful protests, civil disobedience, and riots must be recognized to enhance the safety of all community members and peace officers.
The Problem vs. the Solution
Across America we are experiencing anarchy after George Floyd’s death. The grief following his needless passing is being overshadowed by demonstrations and unlawful assemblies with arson, looting, vandalism, and violence. The Minneapolis Chief of Police stood with community leaders to announce that criminal investigations are ongoing. The four officers in this callous and deadly incident have subsequently been fired, arrested, and charged. As hostile rioters devastated cities, their vicious criminal acts darkened peaceful protestors’ powerful message desiring cultural changes through order not chaos.
Throughout the nation people and businesses are struggling. The 50 states have implemented various economic strategies to reopen commerce and address an all-time unemployment high. In many communities, peaceful demonstrations have unfortunately escalated into criminal behavior and violence that resulted in crime, property loss, injury, and death. To address these problems chiefs of police, sheriffs, and elected political leaders have requested mutual aid and national guard support to supplement depleting law enforcement resources.
The unnecessary demise of George Floyd that sparked outrage was the tipping point for the current turmoil. The mainstream media has moved continuously from one conflict to another creating a mood of frustration and uncertainty, intensifying the disregard for law and public welfare during the pandemic crisis. The consequences of this civil disorder are sending hordes of lawbreakers, looters, and rioters throughout our communities. The result is economic loss, stress, and suffering. We must ask ourselves why a segment of our society has shifted to radical criminal behaviors and what motivation is behind creating pandemonium.
Protect and Serve
We must understand the significant lessons learned from previous civil unrest. Policing needs to be effective, safe, and vigilant while protecting and respecting the dignity and rights of the people we serve. Leadership and training efforts must assure that peace officers get adequate rest, constant support, proper field direction on the use of force, reality-based training, and sufficient modern equipment. When law enforcement officers recognize pre-assaultive behaviors, this essential safety skillset may prevent injuries and safeguard lives . Peace officers must continue to remain strong in the face of adversity fortified by our allegiance to professionalism and service as reflected in our Law Enforcement Code of Ethics .
Analysis of Mass Demonstration
Application of select policing concepts identified in mass demonstration after-action reports will assist in planning and preparing for current and future major events. There are four reports referenced in the resources below from Baltimore, MD ; Ferguson, MO ; Los Angeles, CA ; and Seattle, WA . The reports’ findings and recommendations are wide-ranging and valuable today. These resources may be important to agencies experiencing peaceful protests and civil disorder involving anti-government militia, anti-fascists, hate groups, opportunists, radical environmentalists, and other extremist groups.
At the request of the City of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University conducted an after-action analysis of the events which occurred in April 2015. The conclusions provide agencies with insights to preparing for major events and mitigating risks, while enhancing everyone’s safety and welfare. The following is an excerpt from the 73-page report .
“Explicit City-wide Strategy and Tactics for Mass Demonstration Management:
In this regard, we recommend the following guidelines for mass demonstration management, which are derived from current best practices, after-action reviews, law enforcement research, and the most recent recommendations from law enforcement training centers. At each level of tactical response, the Department’s top priority should be to value and preserve human life, with a goal of de-escalation, containment, and prevention of further escalation. Our recommended guidelines are as follows:
- Community- and crowd-directed efforts to maintain peace and minimize and de-escalate
tensions at source…
- Protection of demonstrators and public…
- Protection of all personnel/responders’ health, safety, and morale…
- Incident Command: clear roles, chain of command, limited span of control, appropriate intel, and communications…
- Clear communication of strategy to field personnel…
- Use-of-force and arrest decisions in adherence to policy standards for justification, safety, documentation…
- Effective utilization of verified information/intelligence by strategic leaders (e.g., Incident
- Commander [IC]) …
- Coordinated, scalable city-wide interagency collaboration and effective deployment of
mutual aid as needed…” 
Consideration should be given to a review of the findings of these reports through the lessons learned and recommendations. This critical information can then be compared to current department guidelines, policies, tactical procedures, and training to determine best practices and relevancy. We offer these after-action reports as insight for further discussion to enhance effectiveness, decision-making, and public/officer safety.
What will be the Next Major Event?
So far 2020 has been an unprecedented time in our nation’s history. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic with a record number for nationwide unemployment of 42. 6 million , combined with some businesses, houses of worship, recreation areas, and schools still closed. People across our nation are suffering economic hardships and the loss of co-workers, friends, and loved ones from COVID -19. Although states are implementing various strategies to reopen safely, many people are no longer respecting rules of social distancing and the wearing of masks. These failures could lead to further virus outbreak with more people infected and dying.
Unfortunately, various protests have evolved into radicalism and criminal behavior in organized groups. As we face the summer months and the fear of murder hornets that are now in the United States, many agencies are planning for the next challenge. Public safety organizations are always formulating strategies to protect our communities from crime while preparing for natural disasters such as drought, earthquake, fire, flood, and hurricane.
As the law enforcement profession moves forward, we are facing one of the more challenging times in our country’s history, battling a deadly pandemic resulting in economic havoc, and police misconduct causing demands for social justice. Law enforcement professionals at all organizational positions must learn and implement best policing practices that are critical for future public and officer safety. As peace officers prepare and train for our next moment in time with flexible de-escalation skills, effective critical decision-making, ethical and legal use of force, and successful strategies with armed and unarmed homeless and mentally ill, , we will be better prepared to face the 21st Century policing challenges We must continue to develop diverse community policing partnerships to achieve peace, address the anti-law enforcement sentiment, and protect the right to peacefully demonstrate.
“Peace is merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means which we arrive at that goal.”
-Martin Luther King Jr
 Wemmer, R. & Young, M., Safe Distancing: Adapting to an Invisible Threat, Law Officer, May 2020, https://www.lawofficer.com/invisible-threat/
 The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Law Enforcement Code of Ethics
Adopted October 1957, https://www.theiacp.org/resources/law-enforcement-code-of-ethics
 O’Connor, K., Links, J., & Sauer, L, Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD, Baltimore City’s Preparedness and Response to Mass Demonstration Events Based on a Review and Analysis of the Events of April 2015, published 2015, https://mayor.baltimorecity.gov/news/press-releases/2015-12-11-johns-hopkins-university-after-action-report-documents-0
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Critical Response Initiative, After–Action Assessment of the Police Response to the August 2014 Demonstrations in Ferguson, MO, published 2015, https://www.policefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/After-Action-Assessment-of-the-Police-Response-to-the-August-2014-Demonstrations-in-Ferguson-Missouri.pdf
 Los Angeles Police Department After-Action Report 1992 April/May Riot, posted by the Los Angeles Times April 7, 2017, https://documents.latimes.com/los-angeles-police-department-after-action-report-1992-aprilmay-riot/
 The Seattle Police Department After Action Report, World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference Seattle, Washington November 29 – December 3, 1999
Prepared by the Seattle Police Department April 4, 2000, http://media.cleveland.com/pdextra/other/Seattle%20PD%20after%20action%20report.pdf
 Lambert, L., Fortune.com, Over 42.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, dated June 4, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/06/04/us-unemployment-rate-numbers-claims-this-week-total-job-losses-june-4-2020-benefits-claims/