How Ready is LPD for Riots?

Published 08/22 2014 10:09PM

Updated 08/22 2014 10:23PM

by Victoria Price

LUBBOCK, TX -- After a police officer shot and killed 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri two weeks ago, the city plunged into chaos. Protesters and looters took the streets, and local police were in over their heads.

So what if that were to happen in Lubbock?

"If something were to happen, then supervisors would call as many officers as they would feel could contain the situation," explains Sgt. Jason Lewis with LPD. "To keep it from getting out of hand, keeping innocent people from getting hurt, keep property from getting destroyed."

But, Lewis says he doesn't think Lubbock Police could necessarily handle civil unrest on such a grand scale as what authorities saw in Ferguson. But, he also explains many cities couldn't either, and especially smaller cities like ours. Lewis says the majority of their "riot training" revolves around smaller situations, such as a large fight breaking out at a Tech football game. But, they do have a unit called the "mobile field force." Separate from the SWAT Team, it's a group of trained officers that keep gear like shields in their vehicles while on duty, just in case a riot were to break out.

"The SWAT Team is not designed for that sort of interaction. Our SWAT Team is designed for hostage situations, and for serving felony warrants, and things of that nature," Lewis says. "Our swat team does not train for large crowds, we don't have the equipment."

But, Lewis says says one of LPD's biggest tools to help prevent situations like Ferguson are their body cameras, and the accountability they provide, if and when an officer resorts to using deadly force.
"If you have conflicting stories from witnesses, that can make it very difficult for a department to get information," he explains. "Whereas if you were to have a camera that had recorded that, it could make it easier to say 'okay, we know what happened, because here it is.'"  

Because of Ferguson, many larger cities -- like Dallas -- are now calling for their police departments to start using body cameras, too. Studies have shown wearing these cameras leads to a significant drop in the number of cases where officers resorted to using force.

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