For the past five years FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), in Anniston, Ala., has provided Field Force training to law enforcement officers in support of events such as the Presidential Inauguration, Republican and Democratic National Conventions, Super Bowls, NATO Conferences, leader’s summits, Governors' Conferences and routine celebrations in cities nationwide. CDP Field Force courses provide critical skills for law enforcement to ensure First Amendment rights are enforced and the public and property are protected for major and small events.

Twelve Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers recently attended CDP training. The officers joined fellow officers from around the United States attending the Field Force Extrication Tactics (FFE) course that teaches officers how to safely remove a protester from various devices and also focuses on protecting Americans’ rights to assemble and protest.

“Law enforcement is faced with many challenges and protesters who unlawfully assemble and use devices that counter a peaceful demonstration is illegal and dangerous to the public,” said Brian Boxler, a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “There are reports of protesters using these devices in our state. We need to be ahead of those who intend to unlawfully assemble. We need to be prepared and have a response plan.”

The CDP has conducted more than 730 Field Force courses since 2009, graduating more than 29,000 emergency responders across the United States and its territories. Of those, 234 were FFE courses, totaling nearly 5,500 students. The three-day FFE course is designed for more than just law enforcement. The courses have been delivered to emergency management, emergency medical, fire and healthcare personnel.

“As police officers we prepare for anything that could happen,” said Chad Leavitt, a Las Vegas Metro police officer. “We are part of the Las Vegas Metro Homeland Security Saturation Team and train to handle all protests. Las Vegas is nationally recognized and if anything happened in our city or state we’d want to be prepared to handle any situation.”

“What we’ve learned here fits perfectly with the vision of our department which is ‘To be the safest community in America,’” said Boxler. “This training allows us to protect the protester and the visitors and residents of our community and police officers responding.”

As large events gain more attention, protesters create sophisticated devices designed to interrupt and delay operations. These interruptions could be a danger to the public and also a threat to the protesters themselves. FFE provides law enforcement and other emergency personnel with the knowledge, skills and tools to safely remove protester devices.

Local law enforcement in Helena, Mont., reported that protesters were surprised at the responding officers’ knowledge and skill, when 70 environmental activists protested using devices on the floor of the state Capitol in July 2011.

“The CDP training not only helped us bond as a team, it also helped build our confidence by learning how to defeat the various protester devices,” said Dave Jeseritz, aformer assistant chief of police for the Helena Police Department, now retired. “The training our team members received from the CDP was undoubtedly one of the main reasons that event went as smooth as it did. We believe [the protesters] were shocked to see our knowledge and expertise in the devices they brought in.”

The CDP Field Force training allows local law enforcement to perform as a team and professionally work with citizens invoking their rights of free speech and assembly. The training also reinforces command structure and provides applications of Incident Command (IC) that describes the organizational process during emergency operations.

“It is our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble,” said Leavitt. “But some protesters break the law and this training builds confidence and provides an understanding about how these devices are made and work.”

“We’re police officers and our job is to protect the community, so we need to be 100 percent and fully prepared to overcome any obstacle,” said Boxler. “The more we put into training the more we get from training.”

Skills learned during Field Force Extrication Tactics:

  • Recognizing the purpose of protester devices and identifying the various types of locking protester devices used in civil actions
  • Explaining legal issues as they relate to the use of and the extrication of individuals from protester devices and outlining the responsibilities of extrication team members
  • Distinguishing the roles and responsibilities of the extrication team from other law enforcement assets
  • Operating tools used to extricate an individual from protester devices and demonstrating methods of extricating an individual from protester devices

The CDP plays a leading role in preparing state, local and tribal responders to prepare for and respond to manmade events or major accidents involving mass casualties. CDP training is fully funded for tribal, state, and local response personnel. Round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders or their agency or jurisdiction. To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit http://cdp.dhs.gov or call 866-213-9553. You can also visit the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn