Post-Ferguson, APD stands by civil unrest preparation plans

The Anchorage Police Department says they are ready if civil unrest breaks out in Alaska’s largest city, like it did in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month. But their main tactic is being as transparent and open as possible so that riots don’t happen in the first place. 

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Police Chief Mark Mew says when a protest is planned, the police make a point to work with the organizers so everyone knows each other and the laws. They also help organizers deal with infiltrators who aim to cause trouble.

Sgt. Jack Carson says in the event of an unplanned protest or a riot, the department wants to keep the crowd as calm as possible and give them directions to disperse. They may wear helmets but they won’t carry shields. Carson says other police departments learned that crowds tend to be calmer when police don’t have shields.

Carson says the department has been criticized for some of it’s more militarized looking equipment, like patrol rifles. But he says they are actually safer than traditional shotguns.

“It’s way more accurate, allows us to deliver pinpoint hits. We also got more of a hybrid round for it. It’s an amazing round that’s got very little issues with over-penetration, where traditionally the shotgun’s got big issues with over penetration where it can actually go through our intended target and into secondary targets that we don’t intend to strike.”

Carson says armored vehicles, like those used in some SWAT responses, give officers the protection they need to respond with non-lethal force. He says officers are more likely to shoot when they are vulnerable.