The Greensboro Police Department has been training and deploying its new Civil Emergency Unit.
Captain John Wolfe commands the 90-member team, which is most often mobilized to observe and respond to public demonstrations. The CEU trains several times a year. Wolfe says it has learned from the mistakes of departments who have sent untrained officers to deal with tense protesters.
"They're trained in de-escalation. They're trained in civil rights. They're trained in force continuums. You know, fear can shake your discipline and our people, we train them to take a lot of abuse and to not react out of some personal anger. And that makes a big difference when you're standing on a line in front of an unruly crowd."
Wolfe says Greensboro's CEU has been to more than a dozen protests in the past year and has reported minimal use of force.
The unit has a new high-power voice amplification machine called a Long Range Acoustic Device to boost messages over a distance or competing noise.
Capt. Wolfe says the amplifier can be controlled better than tear gas to control an unruly crowd of protesters.
"My device has to be able to make my message clear to the people in that group so that the folks trying to peacefully demonstrate have the opportunity to separate themselves from people who will do whatever it takes to get arrested or cause damage or create disruption."
Wolfe says the department paid about $13,000 last year for the LARD, which can also be useful in searches for missing seniors, children and people with disabilities.