DES MOINES, Iowa — After a summer of protests and contentious standoffs with law enforcement, police officers in Des Moines have begun training on a more transparent crowd control policy.
“The goals are to maintain a peaceful environment in our city, make sure property is protected and lives are protected but also make sure people’s rights are protected when they want to express their opinions,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.
The policy was presented to the city council in November and took effect immediately. The eight-page document finally gives the department a formal policy on different gatherings from lawful and unlawful demonstrations to civil disturbances and uncontrolled rioting. Upon arrival to a demonstration, officers are to monitor the scene and minimize any contact with crowds. If physical contact is necessary, officers are told to avoid reacting to comments by demonstrators and maintain a courteous and neutral demeanor. Mass arrests should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
The updated policy also says crowds should only be ordered to disperse after three verbal warnings and when there is a clear risk of violence, criminal activity or when the crowd begins to block an intersection or roadway. Projectiles like tear gas and rubber bullets will continue to be used when authorized. The policy also states demonstrators should always have an exit and not be blocked in by police unless they are under arrest.
The Des Moines Police Department looked to large cities like Los Angeles and Seattle when consolidating the crowd control policy into one document. “In our job there is going to be criticism, and if that criticism is intended to improve how we serve and give us an awareness of what our community needs from us, then we are going to listen to it and do what we can to move forward and make those things happen,” Parizek said.
Officers will receive both initial academy training as well as periodic training on crowd control and management.