Littleton Police say there is no evidence to support social media rumors of violent protests coming to Littleton.
“There's no credible threat,” said Littleton Police Chief Doug Stephens. “Organizing a bunch of people to go to the suburbs is a lot more difficult than just staying in downtown Denver. We have no intel indicating otherwise.”
Littleton Police have not stepped up patrols in response to online rumors, Stephens said, and the department is at normal staffing levels.
Stephens said the department received a call from Denver Police on May 29 to arrange possible backup for ongoing protests in Denver, but have not heard back since.
Protests have surged nationwide after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd while in police custody. Denver Police have repeatedly deployed tear gas and “less-lethal” munitions to disperse protesters, some of whom have destroyed property or set small fires.
Stephens said Littleton Police have placed a dozen SWAT-trained officers on standby in case they are called to join the police response to the protests in Denver. The officers would utilize standard police cruisers, he said.
The department also has a Bearcat armored vehicle available for use, procured for about $300,000 in early 2019. The vehicle replaced the department's former SWAT vehicle, a former Wells Fargo truck donated in 2001.
The officers have access to the department's stock of tear gas, riot gear and 40mm “less-lethal” munitions, Stephens said, including “sponge rounds” composed of a hard foam, and pepper spray rounds, which are like paintballs but contain an irritant powder. Both are meant to bring about “pain compliance” – causing pain but not serious injury, Stephens said.
“We say 'less-lethal' because there's still a chance of injury or death,” Stephens said.
Littleton Police do not have body cameras, Stephens said. The department was entering into a pilot program to test body cameras before the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but that program has been put on hold because of plunging city tax revenues.
Littleton Police are trained like all police in de-escalation, Stephens said.
“That's policing 101,” Stephens said. “It's supposed to be the first thing we do when we show up on a scene: calm people down. Sometimes the mere presence of someone in uniform can escalate a situation, though. It's about using a calm voice, keeping barriers between yourself and someone who might attack you, that sort of thing. But sometimes we do need to use force, and we train extensively on that.”
Colorado Community Media has requested the department's polices and procedures for crowd control and critical incident management.
Stephens called George Floyd's death in Minneapolis “an avoidable tragedy.”
“Nobody in our department thinks that was appropriate,” Stephens said. “That officer kneeling on his neck was out of line. Our officers are trained to use the minimal force necessary to gain compliance, then stop and render aid to anyone injured. It's just common sense.”
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