How Are Police Trained to Handle Riots? - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

How Are Police Trained to Handle Riots?

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BILLINGS, Mont. - Nearly two weeks after an unarmed black teenager was shot in Ferguson, Missouri -- protestors are still lining the streets. While protests have simmered in the past few days, last week, riots turned violent with Molotov cocktails being thrown, tear gas filling the air, and shots being fired.

While riots like the ones in Ferguson have never happened in Billings, the Billings Police Department is trained to deal with large crowd protests. BPD Lt.. Kevin Iffland says there have been plenty of peaceful protests in Billings, but they haven't ever turned violent in the nearly 20 years he's been a part of the police force.

He says once there is any aggression or illegal activity, such as blocking a roadway, a peaceful protest is no longer peaceful.

"If there's a peaceful demonstration, no illegal activity being committed -- that's their legal right -- to protest and to be out there," Iffland said. "That line gets crossed if you get people, whether the demonstrators, or non-demonstrators start doing illegal activity -- that's when the police have to get involved just like we would in any other crime."

If a riot were to ever break out, Iffland says establishing a line of communication is very important to ensure protestors know their limits.

In Missouri, a St. Louis grand jury is currently hearing evidence in the shooting investigation, and the officer allegedly involved in the shooting, Darren Wilson, will have the opportunity to testify before a grand jury.