Boston Police Department leaders want to quell some officers’ concerns over a plan requiring on-scene commanders trying to control post-Super Bowl crowds to receive permission from headquarters before using the most serious weapons, the Boston Globe says. A draft plan for Sunday includes nearly two pages detailing “rules of engagement” on using force against crowds. It requires commanding officers in the field to obtain permission from superiors before dispersing crowds; to give crowds a warning and sufficient time to disperse; and to get written authorization from one of two top officials before using tear gas and longer-range weapons such as guns that fire rubber bullets. The top field commander, on his own authority, could use those weapons to protect people from serious attack.
Some field officers are worried that their hands might be tied in what could be a fast-changing situation. It is unusual for the rules of engagement to be distributed in writing. Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole said that the rules are not new. Last year, only 43 crowd-control officers worked in Boston after the Patriots victory. Rampaging crowds in Kenmore Square lit bonfires and overturned cars. The chaos spread, and a man was hit and killed by an alleged drunk driver near Northeastern University. For this Sunday, O’Toole has banned any projectile weapons similar to the pepper pellet gun that officers fired into crowds celebrating the Red Sox American League pennant victory in October. A college student was struck and killed by one of the pellets.