Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor
“This is the Irving Police Department. Vacate the premises now or we will engage,” a megaphone rattled from down the Mall, where a squad of thirty full-suited riot police stood in formation.
“Ohhh! Come and get us!” A group of protestors 20 yards down the Mall yelled back, lobbing tennis balls. “Bet you glad you got that shield, boy!”
“This is the Irving Police Department. If you do not leave, we will arrest you.”
“Yeah! Whatever! No!”
Boom, boom, boom, boom. The line of 30 men in blue began to advance, drumming their plexi-glass shields with their billy sticks.
Dozens of tennis balls bouncing off their shields and visors, the line pushed the crowd back toward the Tower, wrestling to the ground and hand-cuffing some of the protestors before eventually halting in front of the Mall-side doors to Haggar as the stand-off and shouting resumed.
With these and other mock scenarios, the squad of 30 IPD riot police, as well as the 30 “actors” – undercover police and police explorers from other universities – and the 30 or so other riot police scattered around campus, filled the University of Dallas’s sleepy interterm campus with fake tear gas, tennis balls and shouting for a full day in early January.
The cadre of 60 officers, officially called the Mobile Field Force, had come to UD that day and the day before to practice some of their crowd-control techniques on various parts of campus, much to the amusement of those on campus over break.
“They were throwing tennis balls! That was hilarious,” said Jane O’Brien, an employee at the business office.
“They’re really funny,” sophomore Dominic Dougherty said as he took some photos.
Junior Megan Best took a break from serving lattes to an empty Cap Bar to peek outside with senior RA Kim Read. Down the Mall, staff from the registrar’s office left their paperwork and ringing phones to watch the marching and the drills.
“Can I go out there?” philosophy professor Dr. Matthew Walz asked, looking through the glass doors of Braniff.
“Come and get me! I’m ready!” bellowed Dr. Thomas Jodziewicz from inside Braniff.
An occasional student was confused by the day’s antics.
“Excuse me, excuse me! What happened? What happened?” two Graduate School of Management students asked as they approached one of the scenarios on the Mall.
The University was approached by the IPD in June about hosting the training sessions, and agreed as both a courtesy and a way to foster a good relationship between CSO and IPD.
“Communication between University officials and outside law enforcement agencies is of critical importance for success during an outside police response to an emergency or incident on campus,” said Captain Charlie Steadman, director of the Campus Safety Office.
“This kind of training cannot help but result in a more productive relationship between the University and IPD.”
Though different units of the IPD have been training on campus for the last ten years, this training session was the largest hosted thus far, Steadman said.
Spending the first day practicing marching formations and reviewing tactics, the group shifted over to “real-life” scenarios on the next day.
From the Rathskeller patio to the Mall to the Art History Auditorium, the officers and actors used a variety of spaces on campus to rehearse how to respond to uncooperative or violent crowds, or to any disturbance or crisis that requires a lot of manpower, such as a natural disaster or an evacuation.
It was partly this variety in UD’s campus that interested the IPD in its use.
“Tactics vary depending on the physical characteristics, and UD offers a variety of buildings, roadways and terrain,” said Lieutenant Kevin Hamrah, the coordinator of the training session.
“It’s like a small downtown, or urban street,” one of the officers commented. “It has a library, side-streets, class-rooms, and a variety of buildings and layouts.”
The officers and explorers – high school and college students interested in the police force as a career – made a day of their training session, exploring campus and making occasional playful jabs at it.
“This place looks like a prison, with that watchtower over there,” jabbed one explorer, a student from a local college, pointing to the Tower.
Several officers decided to climb that “watchtower,” their jokes and laughter echoing onto the Mall below.