Metro Police holds riot training

Metro Police holds riot training

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Metro Police locked shields, moving a slow phalanx across the parking lot.

On the other side of that shield, an unruly crowd hurled insults, then blows.

"Ferguson!" they shouted.

Thursday's "riot" off Dean Forest Road was about as close to the real thing as training can get.

"This is something that hopefully we never have to do," said Lt. Harry Trawick, wrapped in a black padded vest, standing on the asphalt in the September heat. "But if we do have to do it, we certainly have to be ready."

"Metro always tries to do the very best we can never to put hands on someone in these situations. We'd much rather talk to somebody. We teach our officers. If you have to go hands-on, you've already really lost, even if you win."

The "protesters" were 3rd Infantry Division soldiers. They didn't pull punches for the police, at one point throwing a canister of fake tear gas.

When police knelt down to put on their gas masks, the soldiers pounced, taking their shields and batons.

Officers were able to regain control, but Trawick, who commanded the riot team during the exercise, said that's an area they'll need to address.

Trawick said that is the point of the training, to identify weak points, and to give officers an idea of what to expect in a real riot.

This is the team's second simulated riot, Trawick said, and was planned a year ago, long before protests in Ferguson, MO, drew national attention.

Trawick said Metro's riot team has been activated before when Westboro Baptist protesters came to Savannah in 2011 and when a hearing in the Troy Anthony Davis trial was held in Savannah that same year.

Neither instance resulted in confrontation with the public, Trawick said.

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