Last fall was marked by multiple student protests, including the Young Conservatives of Texas tabling on West Mall and Turning Point USA’s debate with Charlie Kirk.
In the case protests become violent or involve criminal activity, the UT Police Department has two forms of crisis response: the Mobile Field Force and de-escalation.
UTPD’s Mobile Field Force was formed in 2015 and involves all 104 of UTPD’s commissioned police officers.
UTPD Lt. Robert Stock was one of two lieutenants who received Mobile Field Force training in 2015. He said the Mobile Field Force provides a rapid, organized and disciplined response to civil disorder, crowd control or other frenzied situations.
“Once we got trained, we came back and started teaching all of our officers and sergeants how crowd control works, how mobile field force was designed and how to implement it,” Stock said. “A lot of police departments use the Mobile Field Force for unplanned and planned protests and events where they need crowd management to be done.”
UTPD officers also receive crisis intervention and de-escalation training. UTPD Sgt. Brian Dillenberger said the training was designed to help officers with their actions in a crisis situation.
“We use it when we’re trying to de-escalate and trying to get a suspect or person in crisis to respond to our commands or to tone down the situation we’re dealing with,” Dillenberger said. “It’s necessary because it makes the scene safer and lowers our use of force.”
During the Stand with Survivors rally last October, rally co-organizer Angel Bierce said she didn’t feel comfortable with the police presence on Speedway.
“Police are not a helpful presence during campus protests because oftentimes, cops only protect those who they agree with,” psychology sophomore Bierce said. “I can’t even imagine Mobile Field Force being used … UT cares more about keeping the peace, thus implementing a police force, rather than looking at the causes of protests.”
Stock said one of the core objectives of the Mobile Field Force was to protect free speech.
“We’re there so people can demonstrate and have free speech and do it peacefully,” Stock said. “Sometimes some people don’t want that, and when they get violent and want to destroy property, the Mobile Field Force is trained to respond and make sure that they keep order. Luckily that’s never happened, and I’m hoping it stays that way.”