The crowd's average age also impacts enforcement. A young crowd may carry greater risks than a very mature one, notes Jordan, who explains, "A very young crowd can be hard to control as they are very focused on the entertainment and may forget their own safety."
A concert presents unique challenges to law enforcement, Wertheimer adds, and here officers require information about the entertainment itself. Whether the act will be family oriented or geared toward teens, play classical music or hip hop, weighs in heavily when considering the types of crowds it will draw and the behaviors the crowd will exhibit.
Finally, consider the venue. Where an event is held also impacts the need for police presence. Officers must learn if the event will be outside or inside, or if it will offer reserved or festival seating. "Festival seating is historically the most deadly and dangerous," explains Wertheimer.
Venue hot spots to consider include entries and exits, including back door and backstage entrances. Often, law enforcement screens crowds at the front door but fails to check those entering through the back door with the entertainer's entourage. Here again he points to the need to gather some intel about the entertainment. If an entertainer or his entourage has a history of violence, drug use or firearms possession, then this must be factored into the department's risk assessment.
Finally, don't take an organizer's word that they meet industry standards for event security. The reality is, warns Wertheimer, that while such benchmarks proliferate in fire, police and building codes, common standards do not exist in the event promotion world. "If a police officer is told by an organizer that they adhere to industry standards, he should ask to see those standards," he says. "They will soon find they do not exist."
Remember, an organizer's priorities might differ greatly from law enforcement's. When massive crowds appear there is always the potential for an accident or a disaster to occur, however organizers may not see it that way. "Sometimes it's hard to convince them that no money can or should be saved on the safety of the crowd," Jordan says. "I think it's time that some better guidelines for crowd management get put into place to make sure we have done all we can to make events as safe as possible for visitors."
To control or to manage?
The terms "crowd control" and "crowd management" are often used interchangeably, but they mean two different things, states Wertheimer, who's served on special events committees in Cincinnati with both police and fire officials and acted as a police liaison when working for Adolph Rupp Arena.
Wertheimer describes crowd control as the regulation and restriction of crowds. He cites parades as an example of crowd control. At a parade, barriers are set up by police, and people are funneled through the parade route in a specific way. Police give directives and expect the crowd to follow them.
In turn, he portrays crowd management as more of a participatory process, where police offer information and the crowd is largely self-directed. The idea is to give attendees enough information to do the right thing with minimal amounts of police regulation and direction.
Both are needed at every event, Jordan adds. "Crowd management is the general plan and crowd control measures are a tool to stay on track of the plan," he says. "One cannot work without the other, and every event with proper crowd management will have to use some form of crowd control."
At Freak Fest 2006, the Madison PD incorporated a two-phased method of dealing with the crowd, beginning with crowd management. The crowd management phase began prior to the event when police publicized standards of conduct. These promotional materials detailed expectations for individuals and the crowd. Among these directives were "no open intoxicants," "no dangerous costumes or weapons," "no disorderly behaviors," etc. with a list of consequences for each behavior.
As the event unfolded, posters and banners served as further reminders of the rules. At this stage, officers engaged the crowd, interacting with them in a fun, light-hearted way. "Our officers even had their pictures taken with people," Gloede says. "That happens a lot — the college kids want to be photographed with officers while they're in costume.