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Control Force Operations

To restore order in a civil disturbance, a control force must isolate the disturbance area to prevent the disturbance from spreading. It must protect the people, facilities, and services likely to become targets of attacks in a continuing disturbance. It must exert control over the disobedient crowds. It must establish control of the disturbance area. And it must neutralize any special threats that arise.

Federal forces can expect to do one, some, all, or any part of these operational tasks. Which operational tasks they perform and to what extent depends on the kind of disturbance and the reason for federal intervention.


The initial task in controlling a disturbance is to isolate the people creating the disturbance from those who have not yet become actively involved. Once a crowd is isolated, time is on the side of the commander. The first action is to identify the area and the people to be isolated. The second is to seal off the disturbance area. The objectives of the task are to--

  • Prevent disorder from spreading to unaffected areas.
  • Move uninvolved people from the area quickly.
  • Prevent unauthorized people from entering the affected area.
  • Prevent the escape of people who are bent on expanding the disturbance.

Every effort must be made to allow a crowd to leave an area peacefully. This reduces the number of people who may have to be apprehended or dispersed.

Useful measures for isolating an area include barriers, patrols, pass and ID systems, and control of public utilities. Some measures may be in place before the disturbance. Civil authorities usually have a means to control public utilities. Street lights, gas, electric, water, and telephone service must be able to be turned on or off to support control force tactics. Passage into and out of the isolated area must be controlled. Persons connected with the disturbance should not be able to move into or out of the area. But emergency medical personnel, public work crews, media members, and others may need to enter or leave the disturbance area. And persons residing within a disturbance area may need to travel to and from work. Installation and/or municipal contingency plans usually include a pass and ID system to allow authorized personnel into and out of restricted areas. To be effective, a pass and ID system must be carefully planned in detail before it is needed.

Barriers like barricades and roadblocks can be used to stop the passage of people and vehicles to and from an area. Or they may be constructed to permit specific people and vehicles to pass. Often it is impractical to seal off an area due to physical and geographical limitations. College campuses and suburban areas, for example, often have woods and open fields that make them difficult to seal off.

Temporary barriers of troops can be set use of up until more permanent barriers can be made. When a troop perimeter is used to isolate an area, the control force sets up an inner and an outer perimeter. The inner perimeter contains the area of the disturbance and keeps the disorder from spreading. Troops on the inner perimeter face the disturbance. The outer perimeter prevents outsiders from entering the disturbance area. Outer perimeter troops face away from the disturbance. The two perimeters protects the backs of the troops in each line. The use of two perimeters also creates a clear zone in which to stop people who breach one of the lines. In large crowds control force stand shoulder-to-shoulder. In small crowds they stand double arm's length apart. If a closed perimeter is needed, they can link themselves together with riot batons.

Portable barricades of sawhorses, ropes, and other field-expedient devices can be used to impede pedestrian traffic. Concertina wire is a suitable material for rapidly constructed, effective barricades. But concertina wire is used only under the most serious circumstances. And then it is used sparingly, because it is indicative of violent disorders.

Roadblocks that cannot be easily breached by vehicles require large and heavy construction materials. Barrier materials are loaded on staged trucks for rapid emplacement. A quickly-erected barrier can be made by parking vehicles bumper-to-bumper. However, the vehicles may be damaged by a hostile crowd. A vehicle-mounted barricade is useful both as a barricade and as part of a formation. It can be made locally by fitting a wire-covered wood or metal frame on the bumper of a vehicle. More permanent roadblocks can be made from 55-gallon drums filled with water or earth. Sandbags, earthworks, and trees can also be used to block roads. Several roadblocks placed at intervals of 25 to 50 feet will usually prevent breaches by heavy or high-speed vehicles. If small arms fire is likely, barricades and roadblocks must provide cover. Approaches to the position must be illuminated without silhouetting the people manning it. Auxiliary lighting may include hand-carried lights, vehicle-mounted searchlights, spotlights, floodlights, flashlights, and vehicle headlights. Canvas or sandbags should cover materials that could chip or shatter when hit by thrown objects. And signs must be placed in front of the position to warn unauthorized personnel not to approach.

Perimeter patrols are useful to prevent entry to and exit from the disturbance area of people or groups trying to bypass barricades and roadblocks. These patrols operate along the outer operational boundary of the disturbance area. Their routes can be integrated with patrol routes within the disturbance area.


In most civil disturbances, civil police enforce the laws in the disturbance area, and military forces protect likely targets. Key buildings, utilities, and services critical to the functioning of a community must be protected. Also, key people and VIPs can be targets for crowds angered by official policy.

VIPs may be at risk in public, at work, or at home. Off-duty control force members may be targets if they are recognized by demonstrators with whom they have been in conflict. Control force members on patrols too small to defend themselves against a violent crowd also may be in danger.

Armories, arsenals, hardware and sporting goods stores, pawnshops, gunsmiths, construction sites, outlets for chemical products, and other places where weapons or ammunition are stored must be protected. To conserve manpower, the control force may move dangerous items to a central facility. Facilities that could be symbolic targets for radicals must also be identified and protected when possible. Likely targets for such attacks are control force CPs, billeting areas, and motor parks.

Priorities for providing physical security must be established. Effort and manpower must be placed where they will do the most good. When setting priorities for the protection of facilities, for example, consideration is given to the facility's importance to the well-being of the community or the installation. The loss of water and electric utilities endangers the health of the community. The loss of government buildings disrupts government functions. Radio and TV stations, if seized by demonstrators, can be a powerful tool for spreading disorder. A facility's susceptibility to damage or loss must be considered. The degree of risk to a facility is based on its physical layout, its type of construction, and its existing protective measures. When developing priorities for protection, the intent and ability of the crowd is always a factor to be considered. Planners must analyze the destructive intent and the capabilities of the participants. This analysis will help identify both likely targets and the degree of violence likely to occur.

The military must anticipate the need for the rapid implementation of physical security measures. (Detailed information on physical security measures and procedures is found in FM 19-30.) Perimeter barriers, protective lighting, alarm systems, and intrusion detection devices help deter and detect intruders. These preventive measures impede unauthorized access to a facility. Measures of this type may or may not be in effect at the time of the disturbance. Troops also can be used to implement security measures. Troops used as sentinels or walking guards and at checkpoints must be committed jointly with guards from the facility being protected. Existing guard forces can be augmented with additional equipment. Fixed security posts must be manned by enough guards to be effective and to protect themselves until relieved. And troops can be used as a highly mobile response force, centrally located near likely targets. A mobile response force reduces the need for fixed security, freeing troops for other operational tasks.



The measures used to exert control in a disturbance affects the crowd's behavior. Each crowd is unique. The makeup of a crowd can vary during the disturbance. Control force measures must be geared to each crowd's size, temperament, cooperativeness, and degree of organization and uniformity. Measures should change as the crowd's characteristics change. Even a change of one characteristic can drastically alter a crowd's response to control force measures. Large crowds may be easy to control if they are organized, cooperative, and nonviolent. Nonviolent crowds are often easy to control with a very limited show of force. Small crowds can be hard to control if they are organized, uncooperative, and violent.

To control a cooperative crowd, a control force may only have to direct traffic, provide information, and control isolated criminal acts like theft and vandalism. A cooperative crowd may even have its own security force, which can provide liaison and assist the control force. But uncooperative crowds do not have to be violent to evade control. They can passively resist attempts to disperse them. They can form human blockades, occupy buildings, or chain themselves to objects to force arrests and bodily removal.

Crowd size has a direct impact on the selection and use of crowd control measures. Small crowds can be very mobile. They are easily dispersed, but they can quickly re-form elsewhere. Because of this, crowd control formations are seldom effective against small crowds. Large crowds are less mobile. Because they are easier to contact, most crowd control formations are effective against them.

A control force can disperse a disorganized crowd more easily than an organized crowd. A disorganized crowd lacks the leadership that gives a crowd direction. If violence has not broken out, a proclamation and an organized show of force may be enough to disperse a disorganized crowd. But organized crowds have leaders to give the crowd direction. Leaders can plan actions to frustrate or counteract control force plans and tactics. They may use small groups, operating independently of the main crowd, to divert or fragment the control force.

A generally uniform crowd having a common cause and belief in their actions may respond to control attempts in a predictable manner. The response of a varied crowd is harder to predict. A varied crowd often has conflicts between factions within the crowd. These conflicts can lead to heated arguments and, eventually, to violence. A control force is open to charges of favoritism if it appears that they do not treat all factions evenhandedly. The control force must balance its responses to the actions of the various factions. They must be careful not to show favoritism toward any one faction.

The military control force uses carefully selected tactics and wisely committed resources to exert control over disobedient crowds. The task force commander chooses the control measures most useful for controlling a particular crowd. The variables that influence his choice include:

  • Intensity level of the disturbance.
  • Public opinion.
  • Current policies.
  • Crowd mood, intent, composition, and activity.
  • Capabilities and readiness of control forces.
  • Immediate and long-range benefits of control force action.
  • Weather, terrain, and time of day.

In general, the commander has four options available to him. He can monitor, disperse, contain, or block the crowd. These crowd control options are often used in combination. He chooses his options based on his evaluation of the particular crowd. He selects any combination of control techniques and force options he thinks will influence the particular situation. He must always try to choose the response that can be expected to reduce the intensity of the situation. (Control techniques and force options not fully discussed below are detailed in separate chapters later in the manual.)


The commander may task control force teams to monitor crowd activity and note developments. The monitoring done by these observation teams enables the commander to gage the crowd's activity and intent in relation to the overall disturbance. It also may allow him to influence the crowd by persuasion. Monitoring is employed throughout crowd control operations. Monitoring is appropriate when more decisive action is not feasible due to crowd size or when the intensity of a situation might escalate. It is particularly useful in large, nonviolent demonstrations. Monitoring can serve as an interim measure until more control forces arrive. Monitoring includes establishing communications with crowd leaders to convey official interest and intent to the crowd. It also includes efforts to gain the cooperation of crowd leaders.

Observation teams monitor a crowd's activities to gather information. They observe and report on crowd size, location, mood, and on the developing situation. An observation team may consist of a marksman, a radio operator, and an observer equipped with binoculars. They may be posted on strategic rooftops and other high terrain that overlooks the crowd. Sometimes observers use helicopter-mounted observation devices. This also affords security for the control force. The control force must know where observation teams are located so they do not mistake the teams for snipers.

Communications with crowd leaders and participants can help a commander to control a situation without need for more severe measures. If communications exist with crowd leaders, the authorities may be able to divert either the leaders or the crowd from their stated or apparent goal. Pressure can be put on the leaders to channel the crowd into an area that minimizes disruption to the community and aids control force operations. March routes and demonstration areas can be limited to those that will help contain the crowd and reduce their potential for disrupting the community. Pressure can be positive, like offering concessions, or negative, through the use of deterrents.

If the control force can gain the cooperation of crowd leaders, it can decrease the crowd's potential for disorder. If crowd leaders seek cooperation from authorities, officials should try to be accommodating. Crowd leaders can be placed in liaison positions between the crowd and the control force. Leaders can be made responsible for managing the crowd by policing their own activities.

When planned demonstrations, marches, or rallies within a disturbance area are announced, the task force commander and local authorities meet with the organizers. Authorities convey the control force's interests and learn the organizer's plans. Crowd leaders can be encouraged to help plan ways for the protectors to peacefully demonstrate. Joint guidelines can lessen a demonstration's impact on the community. The following matters, if they apply, are discussed:

  • Parade or demonstration permits.
  • Locations of the demonstration and the march routes.
  • Time limits for the activity.
  • Provision of marshals by activity organizers.
  • Prevention of violence.
  • Safety of all involved.

The task force commander and local authorities can also inform the organizers how authorities plan to deal with violence, unlawful actions, and violations of limits imposed on the activity. But they do not express their plans as an ultimatum. If they do, the organizers may hold the demonstration in defiance of authority. Instead, they solicit the cooperation of all concerned so the demonstration, rally, or parade can occur without incident.

Taking pictures of the faces of crowd members can prevent or reduce unlawful and violent acts. Knowing they can be recognized lessens crowd members' sense of anonymity. And, if needed, photographs or videotapes can be used as evidence for prosecutions. To be effective, crowd members must see their presence being recorded. The photographer or cameraman should be in uniform to let the crowd know he or she is a member of the control force. The photographer must be close enough to the crowd to be easily seen, but not close enough to be endangered.


The commander may task the control force to disperse the crowd. The intent of dispersal is to fragment a crowd. This option is most useful for small crowd situations in congested urban sites. But dispersal may increase and spread lawlessness rather than reduce it. Thus the control force must control the dispersal routes and the areas in which dispersal will occur. The force must protect the facilities that are likely targets for dispersing groups. And dispersal operations may need to be followed by apprehensions of small groups still active in the area. The use of proclamations, a show of force, crowd control formations (see Chapter 8), and riot control agents (see Chapter 9) can disperse crowds.

Issuing a proclamation can help disperse a crowd. A proclamation officially establishes the illegal nature of a crowd's actions. A proclamation puts the populace on notice that the situation demands special measures. It prepares the people for the presence of military authority. It tends to inspire respect. It supports law-abiding elements. It psychologically bolsters military forces trying to restore order. It also demonstrates to all concerned the gravity of the situation. It is an excellent way to make a commander's intentions known to a crowd. And it is a good way to reduce a crowd's size before direct action is taken. The control force commander can make a verbal proclamation similar to the following: "In the name of the President of the United States, I command that you disperse and retire peaceably to your homes." Such a proclamation may even make direct action unnecessary.

In making a proclamation, a commander may consider imposing a time limit. But the situation may change, and the lack of a time limit would leave the commander free to choose other actions when he wants, A proclamation must be specific in its instruction. If a time limit is stated, it must allow a reasonable length of time for the crowd to comply with the instructions. When drafting a proclamation, the commander must consult closely with his SJA. He must use the simplest language possible to maximize the proclamation's effect. If proclamations must be translated to a local language, the translation must be made with great care. The commander at the scene may direct that a proclamation be issued over public address systems. The force of the words used in the proclamation must be gaged to the composition of the crowd. If the crowd consists of usually law-abiding citizens who are presently assembled to show disagreement with an existing situation, the proclamation requires less force. On the other hand, if the crowd consists of militant rioters, the proclamation requires more force. The text may take a number of forms, depending on the situation.

Marching troops in a show of force is often a useful measure for dispersing a crowd. Troops arriving by truck dismount and assemble out of sight of the crowd. This point is as close as possible to save time and conserve troop energy, but far enough away to ensure security. When troops arrive by helicopter, the psychological impact of the helicopters can be used. Troops dismount from the helicopters in sight of the crowd, but far enough away to prevent damage to the aircraft by thrown objects. (The first echelon to dismount from the aircraft secures the landing area.) When small groups are scattered throughout a large disturbance area, a show of force can be made by marching troops, by motor marches through an area, by saturation patrolling, and by setting up static posts. Some-times marching a well-equipped, highly-disciplined control force into view of a crowd may be all that is needed to convince them to disperse and retire peaceably. However, a show of force may attract people to an event. And it may provoke a nonviolent crowd into a violent confrontation.


The commander may task the control force to contain the crowd. Containment limits a crowd to the area they are presently occupying. It prevents the disorder from spreading. Containment is a suitable option for a campus disorder. It keeps demonstrators from spreading out to surrounding communities. It keeps outsiders from entering the campus. Containment also is useful when crowd members must be apprehended. Crowds can be contained by crowd control formations, perimeter patrols, and barriers.

Armored vehicles are adaptable to roadblock operations, serving as barriers. They also can provide added protection for the troops. They provide an easily accessible barrier for troops to crouch behind and protection for those troops inside. Military vehicles traveling at close intervals in a column formation next to a crowd is a largely psychological barrier. They can be used to contain a large, fast-moving crowd. The moving cordon creates a temporary obstacle between a crowd and a line beyond which they will not be allowed to cross. A well-trained mobile cordon can effectively do the job of as many as 10 times the number of dismounted soldiers. But troops must train intensely to be able to execute safe, quick reversals of direction for mobile cordons on narrow roads. By-the-numbers commands issued over vehicle radios is a good method for coordinating cordon movements. The cordon's speed is usually about 5 miles per hour with an interval of at least 20 feet. Troops must be silent and alert. Blue and red lights, sirens, blinkers, and horns may or may not be used. Armored vehicles also can serve as mobile CPs. They provide security, communications, and mobility.

Vehicles equipped with a public address system are useful. The address system can be used to issue commands and directives during control operations. And the vehicle itself may be used as a command post or a rally point. It can also serve as a weapons carrier and a barricade for channeling crowd movement.


The commander may task the control force to block a crowd. Blocking physically denies a crowd's advance. It may be used to protect a facility or area that is a potential or actual target. Crowd control formations, mainly the line formation, and barricades are used to block. Barricades of vehicles, concertina wire, and water-filled barrels are used to block or to channel the movement of the crowd.


Unimpeded government operations are essential. Public transportation, communications, and other public services and utilities also must continue operations during periods of unrest and tension. Disruption of such services works hardships and increases unrest and the possibility of group violence. The control force must prevent acts of interference with public functions and help maintain those functions.

Control of a civil disturbance area usually does not require the imposition of martial rule. The role of the military is to support, not supplant, civil authority. Thus military forces never take over. They issue orders and regulations only to support and enforce civil law and to restore civil authority.

The concept of martial rule is unusual in that it is not written, neither in the form of law nor as a military regulation. Martial rule is based on public necessity. Public necessity in this sense means public safety. Martial rule usually is exercised at the direction of the President. But state authorities may take such action within their own jurisdictions. And local military commanders do have emergency authority if time factors would thwart effective action. For example, after the 1906 earthquake General Funston ordered buildings in San Francisco dynamited to halt the spread of fire. At the same time, he announced and enforced measures against looting.

Whether or not martial rule has been proclaimed, commanders must weigh each proposed action against the threat to public order and safety. If the need for martial rule arises, the military commander at the scene must so inform the Army Chief of Staff and await instructions. If martial rule is imposed, the civilian population must be informed of the restrictions and rules of conduct that the military can enforce. The information, whether announced by proclamation or order, is given the widest possible distribution by all media.


Control in the disturbance area must prevent looting and arson. Liquor, drugs, weapons, ammunition, and explosives must not fall into the hands of rioters. Liquor stores, drug stores, sporting goods stores, pawn shops, and hardware stores are highly sensitive targets in a disturbance area. Simply ordering that they be closed is not sufficient. Quick action must be taken to prevent these businesses from being looted.

Looting may start at any time or any place. It may start as an isolated incident and quickly spread throughout an affected area. Looting often involves women, children, and the aged. Troops dealing with looters must exercise extreme caution, being careful to apply the principle of minimum force. Most children found looting have no idea of the seriousness of their actions.

Commanders must be familiar with the antilooting measures that can be taken by civil authorities. These measures include boarding up windows, covering windows with two sheets of plastic containing CS agents or luminescent particles between the sheets, and promptly posting looting penalty warnings. Antilooting measures that can be taken by the control force include:

  • Foot and motor patrols.
  • Fixed guard posts.
  • Roadblocks and barricades.
  • Illumination of likely looting targets.

Troops can be posted in likely businesses, and patrols can be increased in and around these businesses. Weapons can be temporarily confiscated and stored in a central, secure facility. Troops at fixed posts must be briefed not to leave their posts to pursue individual looters on foot. They must remain on post and prevent looters from approaching their areas of responsibility.

Troops must be briefed that deadly force will not be used to apprehend looters. Deadly force is not authorized to control looting. Even the looting of weapons and ammunition does not justify the use of deadly force. But the potential danger that such looting represents dictates that every available measure, short of deadly force, be employed immediately to prevent looting.

Acts of arson frequently accompany outbreaks of lawlessness. Lives and property must be protected from lawless firestarters. Once a fire breaks out, the firefighting task force must be able to respond rapidly. The control force is also responsible for providing security for the firefighters.

Fires may be started without apparent purpose. They may be planned to destroy public and commercial records. Or they may be reprisals for past grudges. Fires can be set by an ordinary person with little sophisticated knowledge. The equipment consists of easy-to-obtain common items, such as a candle, a jar lid, some rags, and lighter fluid. But their destructive potential is considerable. Because of the innocuous appearance of makeshift arson materials and the ease with which an arsonist can move through the chaos of a disturbance, detection and prevention are extremely difficult.

Arsonists can present a grave threat to life. The immediate saturation of a disturbance area by a control force may impede an arsonist's mobility and reduce his ability to strike. Lighting the disturbance area at night reduces an arsonist's chances to operate undetected. Portable lights can augment the existing lighting system for this purpose. The threat of arson must be reduced with a minimum of force. But when deadly force is the only way to prevent the arson and all of the conditions for using deadly force are met, deadly force may be used.


Civil laws and ordinances that can be helpful to control forces may already exist in the disturbance area. Some of these laws, because they limit civil liberty, are enforceable only during times of civil violence. The Civil Disorders Act of 1968 makes it a federal offense to obstruct, impede, or interfere with any fireman or law enforcement officer who is lawfully performing his official duties. The act includes members of the National Guard and of a federal control force in its definition of law enforcement officers. Close coordination with local governmental bodies can help the commander make use of civil laws, ordinances, and restrictions. And the advice of the SJA will ensure that no improper actions are taken by a control force in regard to civil law. News media provide a means by which laws, ordinances, and similar restrictions can be publicized and explained to the populace.

Except in the unlikely event of martial rule, federal forces cannot impose restrictions on a civilian population. But restrictions may be imposed by civilian authorities to aid the control of lawlessness. Military leaders can recommend which restrictions have the most value in comparison to the amount of effort needed to enforce them. The most commonly recommended restrictions are curfews and sales restrictions.

Imposing a curfew is a highly effective control measure in many civil disturbances. It restricts the movement of people on streets and in public places, especially at night. Before curfews are imposed, joint civilian-military planning must address:

  • Coordination of the initiation, enforcement, and termination of a curfew.
  • Public proclamations to initiate and terminate curfews.
  • Curfew exemptions and guidance on who should receive the exemptions, including written authorizations and passes.
  • Provisions for the apprehension and disposition of curfew violators.

Local civil authorities set up a curfew and pass system based on local laws and ordinances. Control forces help enforce the system. Some persons must be granted passes so essential businesses and public utilities can operate during the curfew period. Sometimes all travel must be restricted. As tensions ease, limited travel can be allowed if permission is granted by civil authorities.

Restrictions on the sale, transfer, and possession of certain materials can help reduce the chance and likelihood of violence. Access to alcohol, drugs, gasoline, firearms, ammunition, and explosives needs to be controlled to prevent violence. Civil authorities can also prohibit the carrying of firearms, ammunition, and explosives. This can apply to automatic weapons, grenades, shotguns and sporting rifles, pistols, revolvers, firing devices, and some chemical agents. This prohibition would allow seizure of privately-owned weapons being carried in vehicles or in the open in public.

Receipts must be provided for all confiscated items to maintain accountability. Receipts ensure that any items that can be returned will get to the right people. Civil law enforcement agents may have authority to confiscate not only weapons but items that could be used as weapons. If so, vehicles and people entering or leaving a disturbance area can be inspected, and objects like clubs, bottles, and chains can be confiscated.

Other restrictions that may be imposed include restrictions on:

  • Assembly.
  • Interference with public functions.
  • Communications.

During a civil disturbance, it may be advisable to prevent people from assembling. Civil law can make it unlawful for people to meet to plan an act of violence, rioting, or civil disturbance. Prohibitions on assembly may forbid gatherings at any place and time. Or gatherings may be restricted to certain places at certain times. Civil law may also specify the number of people that may lawfully gather in an area at one time. Inciting or participating in rioting and public disorder may be made unlawful. Making hostile or inflammatory speeches advocating the overthrow of the lawful government and threats against public officials, if it endangered public safety, could violate such law. Such laws, if imposed at an early stage, reduce the danger of disorder and riot by large groups of people.

As tensions ease, assemblies can be allowed if permission has been granted by the proper civil authority. A group can apply for a permit to meet at a certain place and time for a specific reason. Use of permits lets civil authorities prepare for and be alert to potential trouble areas. Permits are appropriate for large events like parades, rallies, athletic events, political and labor meetings, and similar gatherings.

Laws and ordinances may already be in place to reduce communications interference with official messages to the public. These laws also place an effective limit on the ability of agitators and mob leaders to reach a large number of people. It helps if all communications equipment able to transmit or interfere with official messages are required to be registered. Sound trucks and electronic megaphones would also come under these restrictions.


Alert, aggressive patrolling of the disturbance area deters the gathering of crowds. The use of saturation patrolling is most effective for this purpose. It allows information to be collected. And it creates the psychological impression of the control force being everywhere at once.

Standard military transport vehicles provide mobility and communications for area coverage. Troops must be deployed with enough vehicles to provide the flexibility to handle all situations in the disturbance area. The vehicles can be modified with sandbags, armor plate, wire screen, or similar materials to protect against sniper fire and thrown objects.

Armored vehicles patrolling an area of violence provide an added psychological effect. And they allow troops to maneuver close to snipers to make an apprehension. They also may be used as rescue vehicles to extract hostages or people surrounded by a hostile crowd.

Varying patrol routes and times for mounted and dismounted patrols keeps lawbreakers from being able to pick a safe place or time to act. Patrols are particularly useful in preventing overt arson and violence. Patrol members can also spot and promptly report fires. Whenever possible, military patrols are integrated with civil police patrols. Joint patrols conserve military forces and aid civilian-military communications. They also help troops become familiar with an area quickly. And the civil police are available to make apprehensions if they are needed. Patrol members must practice proper standards of conduct and fair treatment of civilians at all times. They are performing an important community relations function as well as a control function.

Several types of patrols can be employed effectively for area control. Foot patrols are most effectively used in small areas or in areas where many people are moving about. Foot patrols must be able to control the disorderly. They must also be able to protect themselves. The size of the patrols may vary with the degree of violence and the extent of activity in the patrol area. But most often foot patrols are squad-size. A squad has enough patrol members to keep the use of force minimal. It also keeps the patrol from being easily isolated or placed in jeopardy.

Land or water motor patrols, because of their speed and mobility, provide timely reconnaissance and broad area coverage. Motor patrols are in radio contact with task force headquarters. They can make periodic contacts with foot patrols and stationary posts that lack communications. And motor patrols can respond quickly to calls for help from other patrols and from guard posts. Land patrols should have at least two vehicles with four men in each. The patrol must have strength in numbers. And it must not be easily isolated or placed in jeopardy. All motor patrols are equipped with fire extinguishers to put out small fires, thus reducing the burden on the fire department.

Air patrols are helpful in directing the overall control effort in the disturbance area. They can perform reconnaissance and surveillance over the disturbance area. They are an excellent means of providing timely information. They can monitor rioters' actions, the extent of damage, the status of access routes, the locations and conditions of road barriers, and other important conditions.


Control forces can be exposed to special threats that pose grave danger to both the control force and the general community. These threats include, hostage/barricade situations, sniping, bomb threats, and fires. Quick, organized action by the control force can reduce or possibly prevent the tragedy that these events can cause.


Troops who take part in civil disturbance operations may be fired upon by snipers. And when crowd control formations are being used, the threat of sniper fire in creases. Troops must be prepared to react immediately. Measures to counteract sniper fire must be executed with speed and precision.

The troops must be aware, however, that persons in the crowd may try to disrupt a formation with loud noises, such as fireworks or bursting paper bags. The troops must be alert to such tactics. Automobile backfires, firecrackers, light flashes, accidental weapon discharges, indiscriminate firing by control forces, or distant sounds of firing can all be misconstrued as sniper fire.

The normal reaction of a well-trained combat soldier is to respond to sniper fire with an overwhelming mass of firepower. In a civil disturbance, this tactic endangers innocent people more than snipers. The preferred tactic is to use an SRT to enter the building from which the sniper fire originates. Troops must not return a sniper's fire unless the prerequisites for using deadly force exist and they have a positively identified target. The control force leader must not permit a mass return of fire that may endanger innocent people. If firing is necessary, it must be done by a selected marksman acting on orders from the senior military person present. And the marksman must consider the possibility of ricochets before engaging a target.

When troops encounter possible sniper fire they:

1. Take cover immediately.

2. Notify bystanders to clear the area or seek cover.

3. Verify that it is sniper fire that has, in fact, been encountered.

4. Report verified sniper fire and request assistance.

5. Locate the sniper's position.

When sniper fire is verified, the troops inform the appropriate people of the situation so help can be sent to the scene.

Usually this will be an SRT and a negotiation team. The troops should try to fix the exact position of the suspected sniper so they can inform the SRT leader.

Measures must be taken to secure the area. If the control force unit on the scene is large enough, they can secure the area. In most situations, however, it will ,be necessary to commit reserves or other control force elements. Regardless of what units are used, they must take steps to isolate, evacuate, observe, and support.

A security unit sets up an inner and an outer perimeter to isolate the area and to block the sniper's escape routes. The perimeters are set up far enough from the danger area to prevent exposure to sniper fire. The unit notifies all other control force units that are not involved in neutralizing the sniper to stay clear of the area.

If the sniper is encountered in a lightly populated area or building, the unit advises residents to leave using a specific route or exit. As the residents exit, the security unit screens and identifies them to make sure that the sniper is not among them. Witnesses and people suspected of being involved with the sniper are detained. Some residents may be unwilling, unable, or afraid to leave. The unit then makes a second announcement advising the remaining residents to seek cover, stay where they are, and stay away from exposed areas and windows.

Control force units set up observation posts on rooftops and in windows of nearby buildings. The observers must have communications equipment. Control force units must be ready to support the SRT. That support may include:

  • Setting up a staging area for the SRT and for emergency and support equipment.
  • Setting up a field CP.
  • Controlling crowds.

When the SRT takes action, team members will:

  • Surround the building in which the sniper is concealed and gain access. They may use armored vehicles if necessary and if they are available.
  • Illuminate the area during darkness. Darkening a street to gain protection from sniper fire is counterproductive. They may use night observation devices if they are available.
  • Employ riot control agents initially, if feasible, rather than small arms fire. If the agents are not successful, then the team may use well-aimed fire by a specifically designated expert marksman. The number of rounds fired is kept to a minimum to reduce the hazard to innocent people.


In a hostage situation, the control force's main concerns are to contain the event and to remove bystanders from the area to reduce the chances of more hostages being taken. The control force contains the hostage site by setting up two perimeters. The inner perimeter of troops must be located so they can restrict the hostage taker's mobility without endangering the hostages. The outer perimeter of troops must be located where they can prevent innocent bystanders from getting injured or killed or from interfering with the activities at the hostage site. It also helps prevent observation by bystanders. The presence of onlookers may only inflame the situation.

As security is being established and innocent people are being evacuated from the area, the commander requests the negotiation team and alerts the SRT. The SRT may prepare for an assault, but they must be very careful not to interfere with the negotiation effort. For the SRT to be ready when needed, they may have to stand by as part or all of the inner perimeter. If the hostage taker tries to communicate demands to the control force before the negotiators arrive, the demands are recorded and communications are maintained, but no commitments are made. They tell the hostage taker that a negotiator will be there shortly. Any demands made and any additional information about the event are provided to the hostage-site CP. The demands and information must be provided to the negotiation team and the responding SRT.

The negotiation team must have information to support negotiations. They get their information from interviews with initial response personnel, witnesses, escaped and released hostages, and captured suspects. It is critical that the team quickly learns the identities, personalities, motives, habits, and abilities of the offenders. This information helps the negotiator relate to the offenders persuasively and on a personal level. The negotiator must know to whom he is talking. The intelligence must be organized to answer the following questions:

  • Do the offenders have criminal records? If so, a wealth of personal information may be derived from their records.
  • Do the offenders possess special skills and knowledge? Could they possibly be trained in explosives and sniper tactics? This information must be considered before deciding to make a straight-on assault.
  • Do the offenders have any special affiliation? Are they members of any group or religious sect that may dictate or influence their behavior?
  • What habits or addictions do they have that could predictably influence their behavior?
  • What immediate needs do they have, such as transportation, medical care, food, water, or other basic concerns, that could be negotiable?
  • If they are recognized terrorists, what are their previous methods of operation? Do they shoot hostages?

The physical descriptions of the offenders and other people inside the barracade are important. They must be distributed immediately to all persons involved in the operation. Any photographs help to identify offenders quickly if they come out pretending to be hostages. Hostage takers have forced hostages to trade clothes with them in an effort to fool control force personnel. And hostage takers have been known to give hostages empty rifles and force them to a window to see if control force personnel will fire.

Intelligence about the hostages is equally important. First, it helps ensure hostage safety. Second, it helps evaluate what might happen inside a barricade before a seige is ended. As well as knowing the number of hostages, their identities, and their descriptions, every effort must be made to learn the following information:

  • Sexes and ages.
  • Relationships with each other.
  • Special training or skills.
  • Special food and medical needs.
  • Degree to which they are being threatened.
  • Susceptibility to hysteria or other adverse reactions to extreme excitement or stress.

These factors can help determine the order in which a negotiator may try to have hostages released. If possible, all information about hostages should come from outside the barricade.

The control force commander must maintain strict control of firepower at all times. All the efforts and progress of a negotiation team can be destroyed with one accidental or unauthorized shot. The goal is for the negotiation team to resolve the situation without resorting to violence. The decision to commit the SRT must not be based on trying to obtain a quick resolution to the problem. Negotiations must be given time to succeed. If negotiations fail, the SRT is employed as a last resort.


Fire, and its potential for destruction, requires detailed plans to provide immediate and effective responses to limit its effects. The actions of the firefighting task force must be closely coordinated with those of the control force. Local authorities are responsible for the task force. The firefighting task force consists of firefighting and lifesaving equipment and operational and security personnel. Additional equipment and people may be requested through mutual aid if additional resources are needed. The firefighting task force must be able to move rapidly with enough equipment to quickly put out or contain large fires and then move on. More than one firefighting task force may be needed. Each firefighting task force has its own area of operation. When large-scale fires occur in a limited area, several task forces operate together.

The firefighting task force is totally committed to containing fires. It depends on other agencies for its security. Firefighters and their equipment are extremely vulnerable to harassment and attacks. Security for firefighters usually is provided by military units. The military leaders work closely with the senior fireman or with a designated liaison to ensure that adequate and timely assistance is provided. The size of the security force varies with the size of the firefighting task force. It also varies with the level of hostility in the area and the number of people and equipment that can be allocated to the security mission.

Mobility is a must. Control force elements tasked with security must have enough vehicles and communications equipment to move rapidly. Vehicles must be equipped with flashing emergency lights to enable them to move safely through traffic and intersections. Military police vehicles, if they are available, can escort the security force.

The following actions are taken at the fire scene:

  • A protective cordon is set up around the firefighters' area of operation. The cordon includes security of hoses and hydrants. The cordon concentrates on activities outside the cordon. Small units are assigned areas of responsibility like they would be for any defensive posture.
  • Observation posts are positioned in and on nearby tall buildings to prevent sniping or other attacks.
  • Hostile crowds are controlled with crowd control techniques. If necessary, reinforcements are called up.
  • Traffic trying to enter the area is blocked and diverted.


Bomb threats often occur during civil disturbances. Frequently, warnings are given to avoid the loss of innocent lives when a bomb has been planted. However, after an explosion, cranks or disturbed persons occasionally may make threats or give false notice to interrupt activities or business by forcing evacuations. If a fake threat successfully causes an evacuation, then more threats usually follow. But any doubts concerning safety must always be resolved in favor of evacuation.

Most bomb threats are received by telephone operators of businesses and schools. Bomb threats also may be received at rumor control centers, police headquarters, and joint operational facilities during civil disturbances. If possible, each facility should have a telephone tracing capability.

Switchboard operators and others likely to receive bomb threats can be provided with a checklist so they will know to--

  • Activate the telephone tracer system if one is available.
  • Learn and record the bomb's location; the time of detonation; the type of device, including physical description; the sex, approximate age, and attitude of the caller speech peculiarities or accent; distinguishing sounds or background noises coming from the caller's location; and the reason for placing the bomb.
  • Inform the appropriate people of the threat.

The checklist needs to be placed near as many telephones as possible.

When a bomb threat is received, the responsible commander notifies appropriate control force elements, fire and medical services, utilities, and EOD units. He has them report to a staging area near the threatened facility. He orders roadblocks or checkpoints set up as needed to keep unauthorized people out of the area. Perimeters to isolate the area must be far enough away to prevent danger from an explosion.

If the occupants must evacuate the building, the evacuation must be orderly. This is best accomplished by using a bomb evacuation plan, a fire plan, or announcements and directions to building occupants. The plan must designate withdrawal to a building or an area that offers shelter from the elements. Care must be taken not to create panic. Occupants should be told to check their immediate surroundings for any unusual or out-of-place objects or packages before evacuating the building. Employees should take their briefcases, overcoats, and like items with them when they evacuate.

Selected employees or residents of the building and control force members are organized into search teams. The teams must be equipped with communications. Teams must be warned that the use of radios during a bomb search can be dangerous. Radio transmissions can cause premature detonation of a blasting cap.

The search teams also must be warned not to touch any suspicious items. Bombs may have antitampering devices that set them off when someone tries to move or open them. Searchers also must be warned that bombs can be disguised in many ways. Bombs can be hidden in fire extinguishers, shoe boxes, briefcases, lunch pails, and parcels. Because of this, building occupants who are on the team should look primarily for something that does not belong in the building or is out of place. Control force members on the team are there to ensure that the search is systematic and thorough. They are not there to conduct the search. Control force members record suspicious items and their locations and report their findings to the on-site commander.

The teams first search public access areas. These areas include:

  • Building utilities.
  • Hallways.
  • Administrative areas.
  • Dining areas.
  • Grounds outside the building.
  • Shipping and loading areas.
  • Vehicles parked near the building.
  • Supply rooms.
  • Stairwells.
  • All accessible closets and storage areas.

They report suspicious objects or packages found during the search. These objects or packages must not be handled. Even when a bomb is located, the search must continue because there may be more than one bomb. Bomb dogs can be used to aid in the search if they are available.

When the bomb itself or a suspicious object or package is found, EOD or a police bomb squad is summoned to neutralize the bomb or suspect packages. (For further guidance on bomb threats see FM 19-30.)

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