City uses Science March to execute ‘perfect plan’
Coordinated effort used regardless of size of crowd
April 28, 2017
Why were there so many police, deputies, highway patrol, and even SWAT personnel, at Saturday's March for Science? Some citizens have asked why there were many official law enforcement officers and vehicles at a peaceful protest that generated approximately 350 protestors.
The high officer-to-protester ratio stemmed from an original expectation of 850 to 1,200 people written in the permit application, and the coordinated police effort built around those numbers, Park City Chief of Police Wade Carpenter said.
And the visible law enforcement officers were only a part of the team working to ensure a successful event.
Among the city departments involved in Saturday's march: special events, transit, transportation planning, streets, public information, emergency management and fire, Emergency Program Manager Hugh Daniels.
"You really don't know until the day of the event how many people are going to show up," he said. Organizers of the Women's March in January, for example, expected 4,000 to 5,000 protesters, but the official count was 8,800 post event.
"You don't know if you're going to have an ambush march or someone trying to disrupt the protesters' First Amendment rights," Carpenter said.
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Analysis of previous events through the Statewide Information & Analysis Center and awareness of other events throughout the state are part of police preparation for the event.
On the law enforcement side, Carpenter joined forces with the Utah Highway Patrol and the Summit County Sheriff's Department to create the plan. Other officers from the Salt Lake Valley, Wasatch County and Provo were brought on board through an interagency agreement.
In addition, Carpenter collaborated directly with Park City special events, emergency management and transit departments, as well as the Park City Fire District.
Carpenter declined to say how many officers were at either march, citing security issues.
The march in January set an example of what can happen.
"When you have that many people there, you have to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Carpenter said. "The Women's March was an eye opener how quickly these things can grow."
"The No. 1 goal at any march is to provide a safe environment that allows participants to exercise their First Amendment rights," Carpenter said. That includes general public, working officers and the surrounding businesses.
The PCPD had to commit resources two weeks before the event because assets are not readily available on the fly, he said.
"You have to plan for all the contingencies," Daniels said. "You can't just get more staff or equipment immediately. Park City doesn't have [unlimited] resources; sometimes you have to go outside the city."
With staff and equipment committed, the full safety plan was enacted the day of. Ensuring good communication between officers and allocating resources throughout the space were key to the plan, said Carpenter.
Other departments enacted their full plans as well. Two snow plows were deployed to block Main Street at the Swede Alley and Heber City intersections and the Mobile Command Trailer was on site to support the incident commander, Chief Carpenter.
Communication with the City's public information officer was also constant that day, despite the lack of incidents.
"We want to keep her [Linda Jager] in the loop, know what the facts are, and let everyone have the same message," Daniels said.
During the Women's March, Carpenter had the Salt Lake Sheriff's office on call and contacted the Utah Attorney General's office as well. Concurrent marches in Salt Lake also tapped those resources.
A secondary goal of every event is to lessen the impact of a march on surrounding businesses and traffic. The March for Science route was redirected to cross over to Swede Alley by the Franz the Bear statue instead of Heber Avenue as the applicant originally planned. The rally also moved from the Flag Pole lot to the Brew Pub lot.
"We try to create a relief to Main Street businesses so it's not shut down too long," Carpenter said. "We also try to separate [vehicular] traffic and walkers."
Businesses were informed about the march through the special events department, and delivery trucks finished their unloading early, disappearing before the marcher.
Even after being pressed, Carpenter said, "I honestly cannot think of anything that caught us off guard. Saturday could not have gone any better."
"It went really well. We like it when that happens," Daniels said.
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