CHAPEL HILL - An advisory group, consultant and Chapel Hill police have forged new policies, upgraded others and put a fresh focus on leadership.
In a recent memo to town officials, police Chief Chris Blue shared four new or revised policies covering media communication and Special Enforcement Response Team resource deployment as well as how to respond to peaceful demonstrations and enforce laws and how to manage large-scale incidents like Franklin Street celebrations.
Blue said the Community Policing Advisory Committee and an outside consulting firm Investigative Security Services molded policies more reflective of community values and that provide a framework for future decisions.
The Police Departments policy manual will be posted online before the years end, Blue said.
The work builds on lessons learned in the November 2011 raid on the Yates Building at 419 W. Franklin St., he said. Led by a Special Emergency Response Team, police charged eight people with misdemeanors after self-described anti-capitalist occupiers took over the building with plans to open a community center.
The raid, in which police pointed weapons at people, divided the community and spawned an internal investigation.
In previous interviews, Blue said police overestimated the threat and, in hindsight, could have reacted in a less forceful way.
On Wednesday, he said major incidents, such as Yates and UNC Student Body President Eve Carsons death, impress on officers the significance of their response. The communitys reaction provides another important perspective, he said.
Theres not a day that goes by in our police department where we dont talk about the lessons learned from Yates, he said.
Advisory committee chairman Ron Bogle said the police and the town manager were cooperative and receptive. The committee still needs to consider public demonstrations, he said.
The department fairly considered every recommendation that was made. Thats not to say they included every suggestion, but many were fully reflected, he said.
Town Manager Roger Stancil was not available for comment.
A major change is a new SERT operations policy, officials said. Although it formed in 1979, the SERT division never had a formal policy, Bogle said.
The new policy states several times that an incidents seriousness should determine how police respond. It sets up a chain of command and requires the chief to be notified and the chief or commanding officer to approve a written plan before deployment, if possible. Patrol units are responsible for securing perimeters and controlling traffic and pedestrians in spontaneous deployments.
Any decision to activate and any tactics used must take into account the need to minimize disruption and reduce general alarm in the broader community, the policy states.
Among other requirements, it also establishes training and testing standards and a documentation and review process during and after the incident.
With or without Yates, this was really something the department needed, Bogle said.
Still under review is a revised demonstrations policy that defines types of gatherings and outlines procedures for monitoring or responding to them, including the possibility of enforcing state and local laws.
The policy forbids the collection of information based solely on religious, political, ethnic, racial or sexual orientation, or against those supporting unpopular causes. It also prohibits officers from seizing audio, photo or video devices unless they have reason to believe the device contains evidence.
The draft policy could be approved soon, Blue said.
The committees discussions also spotlighted the need for continuous leadership training, he said. He and other supervisors are attending a six-month, ISS-taught super training event, and two supervisors are enrolled in the 12-week Administrative Officers Management Program at N.C. State University.
Several officers, including Blue, also traveled to Charlotte last week to learn from the Democratic convention security.