Keeping special events from spinning out of control
Let's all work together
Madison, Wisconsin's Freak Fest draws thousands of costumed revelers to the streets each year.
Keeping this event orderly and fun for all has become a multi-jurisdictional effort, says Capt. Carl Gloede of the Madison Police Department. As the event evolved, the Madison PD realized its forces alone were not enough to keep revelers in line.
The department then created an 80-member Special Events Team and solicited aid from neighboring departments as well, including the Dane County Sheriff's Department Special Events Team, the University of Wisconsin (UW) — Madison Police Department, the Capitol Police Department and the Wisconsin State Patrol. Officers from all departments were then trained in crowd management and control.
Gloede describes this team effort as one of the brightest points of the Halloween celebration. "It has brought the law enforcement community together in a very cooperative working relationship to deal with a large event," he says.
But working together does present challenges that must be overcome, so Gloede and Assistant Chief Dale Burke from the UW-Madison Police Department listed a number of details to consider when combining forces for a multi-jurisdictional effort.
Identify communication needs. Everyone must communicate, despite disparate radio systems. "We have a dedicated channel for special events that allows officers from every agency to communicate," Gloede says, noting this took a lot of work because agencies were on 800-MHz, UHF or VHF systems. Backup systems also must be in place should the main communications system fail.
Train together. A combined effort works best if all agencies train together and share the same philosophy. "Because we train together, we are all on the same page for how we would handle similar situations," Gloede says.
Standard equipment. Crowd control equipment is plentiful, from bean bags and foam rounds to batons, grenades, OC and tear gas. "There are a variety of things an agency could choose to purchase and use," Gloede says. The Madison PD's Special Events Team identifies which munitions may be used, who is authorized to use them and when the munitions may be deployed. "We have come to a standard agreement about what is acceptable and what is not," he adds.
An arrest procedure. At a large event it isn't always feasible to devote manpower to carting arrested individuals back to headquarters for booking. Madison's multi-jurisdictional team created a fully functional arrest center in the garage of a nearby city building. This center dealt with the transportation, security and processing of arrested individuals, quickly returning officers to the venue after making an arrest.
Incident Action Plans. An Incident Action Plan booklet guides officers through event planning, says Burke. By making UW-Madison's Incident Action Plan available to every squad car computer, university officers can prepare a plan of action for any event and in short order, if for example, a protest situation arises.