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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wilmington police want $41K to create protest response unit armed with gas grenades

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington’s Police Department has submitted a request for funding for the formation of a Mobil Field Force Team D – a specialized unit that would be responsible for keeping the peace during protests and demonstrations. The requested ordinance would provide funding for riot gear including gas masks, grenade launchers and riot batons.

“The operational philosophy of MFF-D is peacekeeping in nature. In addition, team Leaders will obtain training to negotiate with external stakeholders to prepare collaboratively for demonstrations, protests, and other forms of free speech public events,” according to the ordinance.

The total request is for $41,775 and the Wilmington City Council will vote on the approval of the ordinance during its Tuesday evening meeting.

According to the request, the Wilmington Police Department does not currently have a civil disturbance unit but New Hanover County Sheriff does. The MFF-D would, “be a collateral duty assignment, similar in nature to SWAT, the Bomb Unit, and the Crisis Negotiations Team,” according to the request.

“Unit personnel will be trained in the latest de-escalation techniques to mitigate tense situations, or defuse them entirely. The Department and the community will benefit from a specially trained unit that possesses the capability to protect those engaging in free speech as well as providing security to citizens from those engaging in violent demonstrations that have turned criminal,” according to the request.

Funding for the request would come from North Carolina Drug Tax revenue, according to the request.

According to Chief Ralph Evangelous, the aim of the unit is to prevent peaceful demonstrations from “getting out of hand.”

Evangelous said, “we want to be prepared, that’s what this is about… basically, no one wants another Charlottesville.”

Assistant Police Chief James Varrone added that some police forces “may have failed” at preparing for demonstrations.

 “No matter what you thought of the reasons people were speaking in Charlottesville, they had a right to organize. But that brought out other groups, and that agitated things,” Varrone said.

“This is not to buy military grade weapons, there’s no militarization of the police force here. This is about training and being prepared,” Varrone said. “We want to make sure we’re good at negotiating and planning ahead of time, our goal is de-escalation.”

What is the WPD requesting?

  • Bull horns (2)
  • 36” wood riot batons (30)
  • C50 Avon Gas Masks (30)
  • 40MM launcher (2)
  • Launcher Carry System Bag (2)
  • Accessory pouch kit (2)
  • Gas mask filters (20)
  • Four-foot shields (22)
  • Three-foot shields (8)
  • Fit test medical questionnaires (30)
  • Annual training at $3,000
  • Pace Outback Cargo Trailer (1)
  • Annual inspection for trailer
  • Annual insurance for trailer
  • Annual registration for trailer
  • Cans MK90 OC Vapor (12)
  • OC Stinger Grenades (48)
  • White tactical smoke (48)
  • CS Triple Chasers (48)
  • CS Canister Grenades (48)
  • Safety glasses (30)
  • Upper body and shoulder protection (30)
  • Groin protection (30)
  • Elbow pads (30)
  • Shin guard protection (30)
  • Damascus Vector 1 Riot Control Gloves (30)

Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.p@localvoicemedia.com

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