Police Liaison is double-edged handcuff

Large demonstrations such as planned at the DNC invite a basic need for crowd management. From any standpoint there is an inherent requirement to involve officer friendly. Pardon my sophomoric wonder about how this can be done with sufficient prudence.

The term Police Liaison is self-explanatory. In the context of an organized public demonstration, police liaisons channel communication between organizers and law enforcement commanders. If crowd behavior diverts from what was permitted, liaisons are the last chance for diplomacy before an escalation of violence.

This can serve both sides. A crowd could be steered away from trouble, in particular if someone has been tasked with the responsibility for their actions. As well, police over-reaction can be countermanded if police leaders are alerted to their subordinates’ misbehavior.

In a perfect scenario, liaisons facilitate a smooth, legal public action. But what if events develop imperfectly? i wonder what vulnerabilities are created by having named liaisons.

At minimum, liaisons have been personally introduced to police and vice versa. They are given the police commander’s telephone number, and likewise the police are able to contact the liaisons. But in what further ways does having the liaison telephone numbers benefit the police?

It’s not hard to imagine that a police department could justify getting permission to conduct surveillance on those contact numbers. The liaisons are self-avowed protest organizers, aiming only to conduct fully legal activities, activities which they’ll fully admit however are often out of their control. They should have no objections to serving as extra eyes for law enforcement, whose expressed interest is providing a safe secure environment for all. A FISA court would be hard pressed to oppose such preventive oversight. The liaisons have as much as volunteered. Surveillance could consist of monitoring phone calls, passive bugging of all activities within earshot of the discretely activated phone units, or of course, GPS tracking of liaison movements. Why not? It’s for the security of all concerned.

Alternately, and let’s presume the police department would only do this if crowd actions were heading south, the police could elect to round up the liaisons in a preemptory arrest, to severe what they perceive to be the leadership from the crowd of followers. Such a preemptive move could also be decided merely from early plan-making overheard from the eavesdropping.

It could be presumed that law enforcement is already monitoring the phones of activists whom they consider to be persons of interest. But those activists who volunteer to be police liaisons in effect offer up their responsibility for their compatriots’ actions. They represent themselves as authority sufficient to try to steer protests from trouble. Liaisons as much as formalize their participation in the outcomes that eventually develop.

Should some terrible illegal act be committed, be it real or a frame-up, have the liaisons bound themselves to subsequent conspiracy charges that an investigation would trace in order to declare guilty parties? Imagine if such acts were terrible enough to warrant calling the organizing body a terrorist entity. Would the formalized police liaisons be considered its de facto signatories? Whoever would imagine that peaceful protesters exercising their right to assemble to petition their government for redress of their grievances should fall under the scrutiny of the Department of Homeland Security?

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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