The Zionsville Board of Police Commissioners unanimously approved a Zionsville Police Dept. policy that would allow the department to create a mobile field force and allow officers to train with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept. for large-scale crowd control in either municipality.
The mobile field force was approved unanimously, 4-0, at June 21 at the commissioners meeting. The policy allows ZPD officers to attend a free, FEMA-regulated Center for Domestic Preparedness course that is implemented at the national level.
According to the Center for Domestic Preparedness, the course provides officers “with instruction in protest types and actions, legal considerations, responsibilities of mobile field force teams, and crowd-control methods.” It also includes hands-on training, such as baton-holding positions, mass-arrest procedures and riot-control formations, that allows officers to practice in realistic scenarios.
The ZPD is now assembling the gear, training and personnel to activate the force, ZPD Lt. Drake Sterling said.
“The mobile field force program is really somewhat driven by the national events from last year,” ZPD Chief Michael Spears said during the meeting. “Police departments across the country had a significant challenge with certain groups of protesters or demonstrators or just people expressing their concerns, and in some cases that got a little out of hand.”
Last year, protests across the nation were sparked by George Floyd’s death while in police custody. Indianapolis saw several nights of civil unrest in late May and June 2020, resulting in police using tear gas on some occasions. Some downtown buildings were vandalized as well.
“Through discussions with the Indianapolis police department, we have entered into an arrangement where if we were to have a situation in Zionsville that exceeded our ability to handle, they would be a force-multiplier, and through mutual aid be able to bring officers up here quickly to assist us,” Spears said. “We, in turn, would do the same for them.”
Spears said Carmel has a similar program, allowing Carmel Police Dept. officers to train with the IMPD.
“Based on the success and experiences that Carmel has had, it seems a logical thing to do because, in addition to bordering Indianapolis, we border Carmel, so that whole group of officers would have similar training and similar experiences relative to an event of that nature,” Spears said.
Spears said the force would assist with large gatherings, events and needs outside of civil disturbances.
“This is, hopefully, something we never have to use,” Spears said. “But if we did, we’d have that assistance coming quickly.”