Police practice in case of Y2K problems

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Police practice in case of Y2K problems

By STEVE FRIESS Staff Writer Web-posted: 10:02 p.m. Nov. 1, 1999

An aimless crowd meanders in a parking lot. A burst of lights and sirens races up to greet them. A dozen Palm Beach County cops leap out of cars and form a line with their elbows and nightsticks. "Back! Back! Back!" they shout in unison, corralling the loitering group away from their hang-out spot. Then, just as suddenly, that imposing line of demanding officers dissolves into giggles and grins when the training instructor shouts for them to stop. Of course, it's not easy to keep a straight face when you're practicing hard-nosed techniques on a crowd of your peer officers, who acted like the street-loose denizens. But all day Monday, 35 officers from the Sheriff's Office and Lake Worth's police department drilled on mob-control methods. Call it law enforcement's Y2K contingency plan: If riots or mayhem are unleashed at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, the cops will have practiced clamping down. "What we're planning on is if there's a civil disturbance or large-scale panic or crowds get violent, we're trained to disperse them or make mass arrests if they need to be made," said Sgt. John Rondone, head of the sheriff's Emergency Field Force. The eight-hour training itself is routine for his 70 field officers, but Rondone said in coming weeks an intensive training schedule is set to have all 800 Palm Beach County deputies do the same exercises. This New Year's is so unpredictable, he said, the county wants every officer ready to respond to riots. Monday's training coincidentally came a day after a 34-page report by the FBI warned police chiefs across the nation to be ready for trouble from religious extremists, racists, cults and other groups planning violence. The FBI had evidence of such plans, officials said. Others fear thousands may panic if computers or other electronic devices fail because of date glitches, although governments in Palm Beach County all say their systems will be safe from the so-called Y2K problem. Rondone said he's not expecting anything major, but the county should be ready anyway. "We don't know what's going to happen," he said. "We've heard some militias or extremist groups say Y2K will be the end of the world, the collapse of the free world. It's more people's perceptions than what's really going to happen." So, on this muggy November day, officers practiced controlling crowds on foot and on horseback, with nightsticks and with tear gas. They forced hordes of their colleagues into paddy wagons and rehearsed how to lead caravans of emergency vehicles through crowded streets. Rondone said he is unsure whether other police departments besides Lake Worth will join them for any of the upcoming training sessions, although he said the benefit would be that county and city cops likely would work together in quelling any New Year's stirrings. Boca Raton police spokeswoman Debra Shannon said her department plans a similar four-hour training session for its officers in coming weeks. Officials from Delray Beach and Boynton Beach police did not return calls for comment Monday. West Palm Beach police spokeswoman Dena Petersen said she cannot comment on her department's Y2K plans. By contrast, Rondone said he wanted the public to know "we're training and we are prepared." Staff writer Marian Dozier contributed to this report. Steve Friess can be reached at 561-243-6636.

-- Helium (Heliumavid@yahoo.com), November 04, 1999

Moderation questions? read the FAQ