Enhanced Civil Disturbance Monitoring and Control Strategies: Using Multimedia Interoperability to Achieve Tactical Advantage

By Col. (Ret.) George Battle, CT State Police; Col.; (Ret.) Rick Fuentes, NJ State Police; Col. (Ret.) Frank Milstead, AZ Department of Public Safety, State Police; Asst. Chief (Ret.) Ronald Brooks, CA Dept. of Justice,  Chief (Ret.) Chris Moore, San Jose Police Dept.

June 2, 2020

Current Situation. It is a bedrock requirement that public safety agencies respect and protect constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech, peaceful assembly and petition. At the same time, public safety is also charged with the duty to protect their communities. Today, major civil disturbances are occurring in cities throughout the United States. Sadly, peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police are being infiltrated and exploited by anarchist groups to agitate and incite violence.  Restoring order not only serves to protect the lives and property of an increasingly terrorized citizenry, it allows voices of peaceful protest to be amplified and rightfully heard. Recent reports and analysis suggest these radical groups are using pre-planned tactics, are leveraging encrypted communications to orchestrate tactical hit-and-run movements and have some form of underlying organizational logistics and command and control structure. Many of the agitators are suspected to be non-residents of the cities being impacted.  Law enforcement is using a variety of counter- tactics to quell disturbances, including showings of force, cordons, clear and hold strategies, targeted arrests, and in some cases mass detentions. These strategies, while helping to restore law and order, need to be bolstered.

Recent indicators suggest various radicalized groups may continue to evolve and adapt their strategies and tactics. One significant risk is that they may shift activities away from major downtown areas to surrounding neighborhoods and adjoining suburban communities that offer softer targets of opportunity. Therefore, neighboring districts and towns should be viewed as at increased risk of orchestrated attacks, especially in areas where actors can easily move into these nearby areas and then rapidly retreat and disperse within dense city environments. It should be expected that as metropolitan policing agencies continue to gain an upper hand, this becomes more likely, especially among those ideologically motivated to sustain momentum and fan the flames of disorder.   Furthermore, it should be anticipated that disturbances will continue for some time to come.

Achieving Tactical Advantages in an Asymmetric Environment.  The ability to counter asymmetric urban and suburban terrorism requires law enforcement to achieve tactical advantages by being able to rapidly assess ground conditions and anticipate movements.  In the present kinetic environment, the core strategies employed to defeat asymmetric tactics are access denial, early disruption, and negating command and control elements. This can be achieved using advanced coordinated cross-agency communications, video surveillance monitoring and sharing, and discrete tactical communications tools. Deploying smart tools also reduces the need for more aggressive tactics and allows for more targeted intervention and faster de-escalation. This is particularly valuable in an environment where many protesters are peaceful, and the agitators’ objectives are to incite the use of police force to reinforce anti-police messaging and draw otherwise peaceful bystanders into the fray.

How to Implement a Platform.  The following describes the steps and capabilities that can be deployed to achieve tactical advantage.

  1. Linking Partner Agencies for Dynamic Real time Communications. Deploy real time interoperable communications that link partner agencies, allowing for seamless field coordination across rapidly shifting areas of operation.
  • Linking Command and Control Elements. Enable real time communications between partner agency command and control elements, facilitating rapid information sharing, assessment and decision making. Being able to seamlessly connect command and control with tactical field command elements enhances swift coordinated action, creating force multiplication.
  • Linking and leveraging Drone Sharing and Aerial Surveillance. Employ drones within high risk and active operations sectors. Aerial surveillance feeds should be connected in real-time with field commanders and higher-level command and control intelligence and analysis elements. When combined with real time multimedia communications applications, voice communication can be joined with real time views providing critical situational awareness and quicker tactical decision making. This capability also allows for general overwatch from multiple areas of operation and the ability to detect and anticipate potential crowd movements in space and time. Additionally, runners, scouts, and illicit caches can be identified, as well as early detection of arson and looting outbreaks. The use of platforms equipped with Forward -Looking Infrared (FLIR) for overwatch at night is also an important capability because much of the violence is occurring under the cover of darkness.
  • Embedded Monitoring.   Equip undercover officers with land mobile radio (LMR) interoperable push-to- talk (PTT) mobile applications with live video sharing and photo sharing. Undercover agents can be covertly linked to police radio networks for increased real time safety and coordination. Undercover agents can infiltrate crowds and identify key agitators and leaders, and discreetly send live video and imagery to ground commanders, providing eyes-on identification, surveillance, and orchestration. Using this tool will also enable field evidence capture and allow uniformed officers to identify and remove key agitators while maintaining cover for agents.
  • Equip Trusted Neighborhood Watch and Business Security Personnel. Furnish trusted community members with a multimedia push-to-talk (PTT) App that ties into a monitoring channel to report suspicious activities and serious threats to lives and property.
  • Enable Major Business Targets to Share Video. Connect targeted businesses with the ability to securely share interior and exterior live video, providing additional means of situational surveillance and assessment. This allows for rapid assessment and deployment of forces to interdict looting efforts. It also provides immediate intelligence collection on various high value agitators for subsequent identification and arrest.
  • Link and Leverage Department of Transportation (DoT) Cameras. Connect DoT cameras to command and control to allow for monitoring of major highway disruptions and also the tracking of inbound and outbound suspicious vehicles.

Conclusion. The overall objective is to achieve tactical superiority using tools tha t can help deny access, anticipate, and disrupt activities while degrading command and control. The tools described above facilitate these capabilities and will enhance efforts to restore and maintain order, de-escalate conflict and increase officer safety.

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For More Additional Information Contact:

Col. (Ret.) George Battle, CPP Director, Public Safety Operations Email: gbattle@mutualink.net Phone: (203) 741-5607

Visit the Web at:                     http://www.mutualink.net/tacticaladvantage

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