Law enforcement officials from across Central Texas put some newly learned skills to the test Wednesday during a mock riot.
Dozens of McLennan Community College students posed as unruly protesters as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency training program. Area agencies sent 61 officers to the program at MCC’s Emergency Services Education Center for the course that started Monday and finished Wednesday, training coordinator Jay Fonville said.
“This type of training has never been in Texas before, so this was very beneficial to get this kind of training here, especially in Central Texas, and for so many officers to have access to it,” Fonville said. “We are here to protect people — protect protesters and protect law enforcement officers.”
Officers from the Waco Police Department, McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, Killeen Police Department, Lorena Police Department, DeSoto Police Department and troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, among others, participated in the three-day training program.
During classroom sessions and demonstrations, officials learned about large-crowd management, critical thinking, intuitive decision-making skills and the public’s right to peaceably assemble.
Fidencia Lopez, a student in MCC’s emergency medical technician program, posed as a protester throughout Wednesday’s demonstrations and said she gained valuable insight into how law enforcement officers are trained to operate in crowd-control scenarios.
Students acted as nonviolent protesters, and Lopez was one of several classmates who chanted, screamed and antagonized officers during the drills.
“This makes it very real to see how protesters are getting taken out and that there might be some injury or even with law enforcement,” Lopez said.
“For us, as EMTs, I think this is very helpful, because we are usually on the outside. . . . Being able to see what officers do and how they handle the situation can help us if anything ever happens here.”
FEMA instructors from across the country directed officers on the public’s constitutional rights and the appropriate way to handle situations with multiple arrests and mobile field-force team methods. Fonville said he was asked to hold additional courses for other officers in the future.
“I think it went really well, and I think it gave officers a lot more to think about in handling several different situations and how to make sure training can be put into realistic situations,” Fonville said. “I think it opened their eyes to new things, and at the end, several law enforcement officers said they are super happy they came to the class.”