Reining in the rabble rousers

Heavily-armed police packing full body armour have descended upon Springbrook and the adjoining training centre.

After securing an intersection during a practice session in crowd control at Springbrook the Calgary Police public safety unit holds their ground.

Heavily-armed police packing full body armour have descended upon Springbrook and the adjoining training centre.

So far, there are no reports of any arrests or injuries. Nor are there any planned, except for practice, says Insp. Bill Webb of the Calgary Police Service.

Calgary’s Public Safety Unit and corresponding units from the Edmonton Police and RCMP have, for the past nine years, used Springbrook and Harvard Business Park as the site for their annual exercises.

On Tuesday, roughly 50 members of the Calgary squad, including a mountain bike unit, gathered in front of the former CFB Penhold military barracks to hone their skills.

Webb won’t say how many police officers belong to the unit altogether — only that there’s a lot of them and they’re ready to roll whenever they’re needed.

The unit works and trains closely with provincial emergency medical service technicians because, in real-life situations, EMTs sometimes need police backup.

Webb used Calgary’s infamous Red Mile on 17th Avenue as an example how the EMTs and police work together.

The Red Mile — an unofficial post-game gathering place for Calgary Flames fans — attracts all kinds of people, including its share of “rabble rousers,” said Webb.

Part of the unit’s role is to help EMTs rescue and treat people who have been injured in the melee, either by accident or on purpose.

The police unit’s first job is to cordon off the area so the EMTs can get to the victim and assess injuries. The police then keep the crowds cleared away while EMTs prepare and transport the victim or victims.

The Calgary Stampede is another example of a situation in which dense crowds can become unruly as imbibers fall under the influence of alcohol.

Calgary’s Public Safety Unit has a mountain-bike squad that plays a front-line role in keeping watch over big crowds, said Webb. If a situation begins to escalate, the mountain-bike squad will be replaced by more heavily armed and armoured members.

Springbrook has proven to be an ideal site for training for two main reasons, he said.

First of all, it’s centrally located so police from Edmonton, Calgary and the RCMP can meet and train together. In addition, its mix of buildings offers a typical urban environment.

“We use the whole area,” said Webb.

Training continues through Friday.

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