They tend to be better equipped, with protective fireproof gear and better shields. They are also better identified, with number and names on their helmets or suits. The cameras all over the place help you go back and determine what actually happened. It’s all helpful and good for police accountability.
What did you think of Tuesday’s nighttime raid on Zuccotti Park — with klieg lights — as a tactic to clear an encampment?
I believe the justification was health reasons and sanitation. The protesters still have the right to demonstrate if they want to. The police had to make a few arrests — that’s normally what happens. The mayor didn’t deny them to right to come back during the day. It seemed like a balanced approach, handled with a minimum amount of force.
Do you envision the same kind of thing happening here in D.C.?
Chief [Cathy L.] Lanier says that the police may have to change tactics based on the confrontational actions some have now started to take. It seems to me the D.C. police have been bending quite a bit in allowing unscheduled marches and things of that nature. What you do if things start getting spontaneous is you try to manage it, let the protesters get to where they want to go as long as they are not unduly impeding traffic.
One thing that can be a problem in D.C. is that you have to coordinate between forces. McPherson Square is Park Police territory, as is the area in front of the District Building.
What other factors affect decision making?
The weather is often an ally for the police in these kinds of situations, in terms of dissuading people. We’ve had almost springlike weather recently. But when we start getting some biting cold nights, we’ll find out who’s really dedicated to protesting.
As long as the Occupy D.C. encampments remain peaceful, would you allow them to remain?
As I said, that’s a Park Police decision. And you have to look at it on a day-to-day perspective. Things can change very quickly.
It would seem to me that if the protesters are bringing in cold-weather equipment, then the question becomes, is the camp going to become a health hazard, a sanitation concern? You also need police available for other things going on in the city. So it’s always a matter of balancing priorities.
If people who work in the area become upset because they can’t get where they want to go, then that becomes a problem. I used to get grief from sightseeing companies when the farmers were on the Mall, because they couldn’t run their tours. They were losing money. So there are many considerations. And you have to be ready — like New York — to do something if the decision is made.
But if the camps are not really harming anything, you can probably leave them be. After all, the protesters are the ones that have got to sleep in the cold and the rain in their tents.