After DAPL: Wisconsin EMAC Recommends More Militarization, Less Transparency

Wisconsin, (TFC)— Shows of force by police in Standing Rock, North Dakota broke into the mainstream as violent spectacles. Few, however, questioned what occurs once out-of-state officers are sent back home. What do agencies learn from defending the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)? How will they use what they’ve learned in the future?

Inquiring about this, Fifth Column journalists were directed to a Wisconsin State Patrol after-action report by an anonymous source. Released November 12, 2016, it details WSP’s deployment under an EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) agreement.

Another Fifth Column journalist previously covered controversial EMAC deployments to DAPL. That piece explored the lack of mandated training required of officers deployed by EMACs. This lack of preparation appeared augmented by the irregular nature of DAPL protests, and clashes. Eight states– including Wisconsin–drafted officers for DAPL containment, surveillance, and arrest actions.

Wisconsin’s EMAC after-action indicates Dane, St. Croix, Marathon, and Rock County Sheriffs were selected. Those outside Wisconsin might not know, but those are all rural jurisdictions. Despite the similar terrain, exactly how much protest experience those officers had is questionable.

During their deployment, Wisconsin State Patrol (WSP) participated in at least one “crowd control situation” against protesters. The report indicates 27 unidentified individuals were arrested for “trespassing and participating in a riot”. Wisconsin’s EMAC after-action also alleges that “many” protesters previously attacked DAPL contractors.

Without listing specific examples, the report ignores documented assaults of protesters by contractors. The most notable of which involves the dog attacks filmed by Democracy Now reporters. After coverage went viral, an arrest warrant was issued for renowned host Amy Goodman.

Following arrests, WSP personnel were assigned to car teams manning “traffic control points”. Whether these were checkpoints–similar to those controlled by the National Guard months ago–or something else remains unclear.

“Two-person force protection teams” were also activated as a “less lethal team”. These units, Wisconsin’s EMAC details, were utilized during protest containment actions in October. Specifically, force protection units supported “personnel deployed in a skirmish line formation”, the report reads.

The EMAC after-action goes on to examine things to continue, discontinue, or test for future deployments. When other TFC journalists investigated EMAC deployments months ago, officials stated they mostly pertained to natural disasters. “Primarily used for snow disasters, flooding, tornadoes”, Morton County Public Information Officer (PIO) Robert Keller confessed. That suggested EMAC’s being used for protests in DAPL sets a rather volatile precedent for the future.

–Police Learning From Deployment, Preparing For The Future–


Image Source: Ivan Bandura, Flickr, Creative Commons
Riot police blocking the way to the parliament building on Sunday night
The March of Millions on Sunday the 8th of December in Kiev

Wisconsin’s EMAC after-action dedicated an entire section to analyzing and learning from police tactics and capabilities. That analysis, however, didn’t involve deescalating future violence against protesting civilians. It would instead appear Wisconsin police are preparing for less transparent, more militarized protest responses. These recommendations included surveillance augmenters–such as drones–before and during ground deployments.

In selecting personnel for such deployments, Wisconsin EMAC praised the use of volunteer officers. This boosted overall moral, the report noted. Additionally, drawing officers from Wisconsin’s “northwest region” was also enjoyed.

Interestingly, Wisconsin’s northwest is largely rural, with few cities. The report didn’t specify whether DAPL-like protests in crowded cities would warrant different vetting. Once more, the question of training and preparation looms in the background.

Force protection squads with “less lethal” capabilities were also praised in the report. Although unspecified, some “less lethal” tactics used at Standing Rock included water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray. Numerous instances of officers using these against protesters were filmed, many eventually going viral.

The report also recommends more regimented training, particularly for force response teams. Fitness requirements and annual CD training appeared among various suggestions. Emphasis was also put on training in less lethal ammunition’s, and crowd control.

Similar attention was directed at officer-generated media such as photography and video. Wisconsin’s EMAC report highly recommended “small body cameras to be worn by personnel.” Tools for accountability and transparency for some, authorities have other ideas. “To ensure the correct story is documented”, the report reads, going on to suggest Live Stream capable Go-Pro cameras. “Much propaganda”, it reads, “and video editing was done to make police look like agitators.”

Drones were also recommended for scoping out terrain before deployments. That’s interesting, considering numerous drone sightings reported by journalists and protesters. Whether these were Morton County or some other agency, remains unknown.

Kevlar helmets, tactical vests, and the replacement of name tags with identification numbers also appeared. Some may find these concerning, especially after displays of militarization at DAPL. Flame retardant clothing and specialized training for removing protesters attached to construction equipment were also noted.

Although of interest to The Fifth Column, it’s currently unknown what recommendations–if any–were made by the other seven EMAC states. If widespread, then one can expect these suggestions to appear on the ground in the future. At least in Wisconsin, EMACs appear to be preparing cops for less transparent, more militarized responses.

Similar civic actions are spreading to other states following Standing Rock. Whether that locomotion will be derailed by the presidential climate or these quiet developments, will become known as the future unravels. Let’s hope we’re ready.