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Northeast Wisconsin police get field force training

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 5:04 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Nearly 60 officers from six Northeast Wisconsin police and sheriff’s agencies are now federally certified in how they respond to riots or even protests.

They began planning the special training last year to provide security at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, but it’s become increasingly important in the last few months.

On May 31 at a downtown Green Bay convenience store, peaceful protests ever the death of George Floyd turned violent.

Gunshots were fired. The store was looted. Officers were injured by rocks and bottles thrown at them. Squad cars sustained more than $16,000 in damage.

“It just turned, and that’s when they called us in to help out down by the Marathon station. So yeah, it can turn quickly,” Lt. Kevin Pawlak, Brown County Sheriff’s Office, said.

That’s what this training is for. The Brown County Mobile Field Force Unit, made up of officers from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Ashwaubenon Public Safety and De Pere Police are joining University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Manitowoc, Green Lake and Winnebago county officers for a three-day training program coordinated by FEMA and the Center for Domestic Preparedness.

All these agencies responded to either the gas station or planned protests in the days following in early June.

“I know our sheriff addressed the group, saying anything that’s low frequency but high stress situation, which a crowd or riot would be, those don’t get trained as often, so it is awesome that we’re getting it and fortunately we have a need for it right now,” Pawlak said.

They focus on de-escalation -- when to let protesters protest without stepping in, and then when they do need to intervene how to react if looting, injuries or damage to property begins.

“It’s all in a reaction to their behavior; it’s all behavior driven. It has nothing to do with what the cause is about. It has nothing to do with if it’s pro- or anti-police,” Pawlak said. “We’re always trying to de-escalate and give people a way out and a way to leave before any kind of force is used.”

Pawlak says the team is often deployed for presidential or dignitary visits, so he expects to be increasingly busy over the next several months.

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