Ferguson Riots Spark O.C. Police to Consider Military Enforcement Tactics

Orange County police authorities, reacting to the fuming riots in Ferguson Missouri, concluded that a militarized law enforcement response is valid in heated situations, but needs to be initiated on a case-by-case basis.

The Orange County Register reported that Irvine Police Cmdr. Julia Engen claimed that “Every set of circumstances is different. I don’t think you will see anyone paint themselves into a corner with policy.” Irvine, Anaheim, and Huntington Beach police departments, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, all have armored vehicles which can be used to suppress riots as well as retrieve injured officers during chaotic insurgencies.

The last riot in Orange County was in July of 2013 during the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington beach, where police officers squared-off against rowdy beach goers. Chaos erupted when the crowd began tipping over portable toilets and breaking storefront windows. In that instance, military tactics and armored vehicles were not employed. Instead of using lethal weapons, police in riot gear used tear gas and nonlethal rounds to disperse the crowd. The Register reported that eight people were arrested and several officers were injured.

Also, although not with the same intensity as the Ferguson disturbances, a series of police shootings sparked near-riots in Anaheim in 2012. Again, although equipped with armored tanks, then-police Chief John Welter chose ultimately to stay away from a military response.

“We learned some lessons on how best to deploy when you bring a number of agencies from across your county in. You really don’t know how they are going to be perceived,” the police chief stated. “Driving down streets in armored vehicles and camouflage and semiautomatic weapons hanging on the side of vehicles, that is not something I expected to see, and when I did see it, I took corrective action immediately.”


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