Arcata’s New Year’s Eve Plaza Plan: Cops, Cops, Cops – December 30, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Plaza last New Year's Eve, 2011/2012. The City has since invested in barricades to encircle the Plaza's center. KLH | Eye

The Plaza last New Year’s Eve, 2011/2012. The City has since invested in barricades to encircle the Plaza’s center. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – At its Dec. 5 meeting, the City Council heard a summary from Police Chief Tom Chapman about law enforcement measures on the Plaza on  Halloween.

Astoundingly, no one asked Chapman what was planned for New Year’s Eve. The answer to the unasked question is, more of the same.

While the night and morning of Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 wasn’t without serious issues – an officer was injured and an assault rifle was seized – it was a far cry from Halloween, 2011. That night featured 30 arrests and at least seven injuries, with costly vandalism and property damage to the Plaza and environs.

This Halloween, a semi-military “incident command system” (ICS) involving full deployment of APD with assistance from other area law enforcement agencies, largely averted the previous year’s problems.

The ICS involves assigment of officers into specific enforcement zones, each with their own duties and command structure. From time to time, officers are rotated from one area to another, and the entire operation is managed from the 600 block of Eighth Street. There, APD uses its Critical Incident Response vehicle as a mobile command post, with other trailers and pop-up tents at the site used for equipment storage, a canteen, booking areas and other support activities.

Having kept public injuries and damage to the Plaza to a minimum with the tactics last New Year’s Eve and on Halloween, Chapman said the same approach will be used this New Year’s Eve.

While some adjustments will be made due to lessons learned during the provious deployments, those will be procedural and not apparent to the public.

What will be visible to the public is that the Plaza’s center will be off-limits and heavily populated with police. This on the theory that preventing a large crowd from gathering there and climbing on the statue of McKinley will again keep things from getting out of control.

“I don’t like to call it successful because we had one of our employees injured,” Chapman said. “If you can take that out of it, it was a pretty successful evening for us as far as minimizing injuries to people, damage to public property, the medical aid calls, the hospitalizations and things like that that we experienced last year.”

The blue buzzkill factor is key to the prevention. “It’s not fun to hang out with the cops all night,” Chapman said.

It’s not fun for the cops, either. Chapman has openly stated that their massive Plaza presence is only because of a lack of non-law enforcement solutions.

“Hopefully, something else will come forward next year where there’ll  be alternative events,” Chapman said. “I don’t think the best way for us to handle it is just having it filled with police all night. It worked, but I don’t think it’s a viable, long-term solution.”



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