GSP hits field for training
by Jessica Loeding
Sep 19, 2013 | 1726 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GSP Training
Members of the Georgia State Patrol Mobile Field Force from Troop A march in formation at the former Adairsville Middle School on Wednesday morning. JESSICA LOEDING/The Daily Tribune News
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As the instructor calls out orders, Georgia State Patrol troopers armed with batons and equipped with helmets and gas masks walk through the procedure for crowd situations involving tear gas.

The group, comprised of troopers from northwest Georgia’s Troop A, is part of the Mobile Field Force. Held at the former Adairsville Middle School on Wednesday, the training is a monthly one-day session held around the troop’s 14-county coverage area.

“We have all of our uniformed personnel assigned to one of two teams here in Troop A. ... This is for crowd control, situations where we might have to respond ... back in the old days they called it the riot squad,” GSP Post 3 Capt. Joe Hamby said. “Basically what we do is simply train on ... our movements. As you watch, you will see different formations and practice on how to move groups. If we are called out to a situation where we have to move an unruly group or move them out of a street or clear a street or whatever, basically this is what we work on.

“You have tactics and different formations that you use to perform certain functions. For instance, if you have a group of people blocking a street or you get a group of individuals who want to demonstrate by going out and sitting down in the middle of an intersection and blocking a major intersection, we work on the tactics for moving those individuals out of the intersection.”

In those situations, unspoken communication is vital.

“... What you run into in a loud crowd [or] demonstration, my experience over the years has been, if you get in a large crowd like that you get, it’s very noisy,” Hamby said. “It’s very difficult to communicate and hear each other, so these formations and hand signals we use to communicate movements are very important because you can’t talk like me and you talk.”

Members from Cartersville’s Post 3, located on State Route 20 Spur, were among those present from Troop A’s six posts. The troop has two teams, which rotate training each month year-round.

“... All troopers are trained to be part of a Mobile Field Force team so they can respond, as needed, when an incident occurs. GSP has conducted MFF training since before the G8 Summit on the coast in 2004. The teams were used during that detail,” GSP Public Information Officer Gordy Wright said in an email.

That event followed a more tumultuous gathering during the last summit hosted by the United States in Seattle. Describing “major issues” in Seattle, Hamby said protesters from around the world arrived in Georgia but in much smaller numbers.

“One of the larger exercises we did in recent memory was down at the G8 Summit at Sea Island. We had field forces from all over the state there on standby if we had any trouble. Fortunately, that was a pretty quiet event,” he said. “... We just like to be prepared if we have to respond. We haven’t really had any major situations in a number of years where we’ve actually had to go out and put people on the ground, physically move people and control the situation. If you don’t train, you are not ready for that eventuality if it does occur.”

With 819 troopers statewide, having a cohesive training policy makes a response mobilization seamless. For Hamby, the key lies in communication.

“When you have a group of 50 or 60 individuals working as a team, as a unit, they’ve got to all be on the same page and the training and practice allows them to practice those situations. ... It’s just like anything else, as a law enforcement group you have certain duties you have to perform, if you don’t practice them you get rusty,” he said. “.. You’ve got to know what you are doing when you hit the ground running. You don’t want citizens to get injured and you certainly don’t want your personnel to get hurt. It’s just like anything else, practice makes perfect.”

Post 3 Sgt. James Davenport echoed Hamby’s statement.

“We will not be able to send the entire Post 3 to a riot situation, protest situation. We still have to leave people at the post to work, work the wrecks, work the territory,” he said. “... That’s the thing — not only do we do the same, identical thing here it’s throughout the whole state. In other words, Cartersville’s troopers can go to south Georgia and do the exact same thing. It’s very important.”