Police riot force training for Savannah's St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 6:09 AM
Last updated 9:21 AM
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SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Nothing says cease and desist better than a crowd of officers in riot gear pounding their shields while slowly marching forward.

The Savannah-Chatham metro police mobile field force trains in riot gear at the Exchange Club fairgrounds Tuesday.  John Carrington/Savannah Morning News
John Carrington/Savannah Morning News
The Savannah-Chatham metro police mobile field force trains in riot gear at the Exchange Club fairgrounds Tuesday.

There isn't a science to it either, Savannah-Chatham police Mobile Field Force Unit commanders said during a Tuesday training session. Their goal is to scare people into submission.

"It's one of the few occasions where we can intimidate people," said metro Lt. Harry Trawick, commander of the unit. "And that's the biggest part of what we do."

The field force unit met at the Coastal Empire Fairgrounds in Tatemville to brush up on crowd-control skills just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Lt. Trawick said.

The unit trains six times each year. The training includes marching in formation while wearing torso and leg protection equipment similar to that of a baseball catcher. Each member also wears a Kevlar helmet outfitted with a projectile-resistant face mask.

On Tuesday, the group members used batons to pound their clear plastic shields while marching, creating a deep, commanding drone.

As the unit moved forward, other officers ahead of them hurled smoke bombs and tennis balls, creating a rough simulation of what an unruly situation could look like.

Although the force hasn't gone against a disorderly crowd, it received plenty of training before the 2004 G8 Sea Island Summit.

"We trained so much then that now it's kind of like second nature," said metro Sgt. Henry Brown as he placed his riot gear in the trunk of his cruiser. "A lot of the officers who were there for the G8 Summit are still with us, so we're fairly strong."

At least 52 officers from across the department make up the unit. Applicants are evaluated to make sure they have a calm temperament, said Lt. Don Lee, who is also a unit commander.

"We take a lot of verbal abuse from time to time and we need to make sure they can handle that," Lt. Lee said.

Lt. Trawick said the unit has a variety of tools used to subdue a crowd, from tear gas to 12-gauge shotguns firing less-than-lethal ammunition.

Each situation is different and physical contact is a last resort, he said.

The unit has a trailer designed and constructed by officers to house things like protective gear and first-aid supplies. Most weapons and ammunition are held elsewhere, he said.

After taking on the flurry of smoke and tennis balls, the marching group pushed its mock offending officers from the large fairground parking lot.

"Notice how we were able to herd the crowd any way we wanted," Lt. ick said. "The key here is that they didn't say anything. Verbalizing won't work."

Comments (15) Add comment
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My_2nd
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My_2nd 03/04/09 - 06:17 am
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nothing says st. patricks day

nothing says st. patricks day like some stick time. ;O)

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 03/04/09 - 06:20 am
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Lt. Trawick is a wise man.

Lt. Trawick is a wise man. The last sentence of this story conforms his wisdom. Hopefully, all schoolteachers will read these words from the lieutenant and benefit therefrom.

silent_minority
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silent_minority 03/04/09 - 07:27 am
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What a sad statement that

What a sad statement that this is about our general population.

reader54
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reader54 03/04/09 - 07:50 am
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Don't kid yourselves,folks.

Don't kid yourselves,folks. This is most likely preparation for a worsening economic outlook. It's going to get ugly.

reader54
326
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reader54 03/04/09 - 09:22 am
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Tnt:They are preparing vacant

Tnt:They are preparing vacant military bases for detention camps.Now,I'll let you tell me why. I think you know.

HotFoot
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HotFoot 03/04/09 - 10:03 am
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reader54 and others of your

reader54 and others of your ilk: Please seek psychiatric assistance. Your paranoia has reached dangerous levels.

reader54
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reader54 03/04/09 - 10:07 am
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Midwest:Have you researched

Midwest:Have you researched it or are you waiting for a Government newsletter ? Talk about Sheeple !

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 03/04/09 - 10:13 am
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"The British Are Coming, The

"The British Are Coming, The British Are Coming!"

Frank
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Frank 03/04/09 - 10:39 am
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maybe it's the chinese

maybe it's the chinese

GACopperhead
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GACopperhead 03/04/09 - 12:30 pm
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No, it's probably the

No, it's probably the Republicans....lol. Just don't take the mark.

klsm
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klsm 03/04/09 - 04:47 pm
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OMG ... what a shame that

OMG ... what a shame that they would have to even anticipate needing this for St. Patrick's Day in Savannah. I went there for about 5 or more years straight with friends and partied our butts off. The worse that ever happened was you may have to carry a drunk friend down River Street and back to the motel to sober them up for more partying!!! Everything has to turn to [filtered word]!!!

HillGuy
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HillGuy 03/04/09 - 09:57 pm
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Why can't Disgusta have a big

Why can't Disgusta have a big St Patrick's Day festival like Savannah?

Piperpig
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Piperpig 03/04/09 - 10:39 pm
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We do have a St. Patrick's

We do have a St. Patrick's Day festival. Our Irish Catholic community, which is much larger than most other cities in this part of the country, has mass and then conducts the parade. Considering that Savannah has one of the largest St. Pat's parades on the planet, no I guess we wouldn't have one that big.

TheChairman
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TheChairman 03/09/09 - 03:52 pm
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Hillguy, Savannah is the 2nd

Hillguy, Savannah is the 2nd largest gathering on St. Patrick's in the Country, so it's unlikely that we will ever have one that big, and with this kind of press, I honestly hope we never do, either... Our Parade and festivities are designed to be more family friendly, and hopefully, it is....

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