Wilmington police request funds for formation of civil disturban - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Wilmington police request funds for formation of civil disturbance unit

(Source: WECT) (Source: WECT)

Wilmington City Council on Tuesday is expected to consider appropriating more than $41,000 of NC Drug Tax Revenue for the formation of a specialized civil disturbance unit within the Wilmington Police Department.

Currently, the police department does not have a unit specifically trained to manage public demonstrations organized in response to various political or social issues -- which have become more frequent both locally and nationally.

The police department has proposed the formation of a 30-officer Mobile Field Force Team D, which will be trained in the latest de-escalation techniques to mitigate tense situations, or defuse them entirely, according to documents prepared for city council members. Team leaders will also be trained to negotiate with external stakeholders to prepare collaboratively for demonstrations, protests, and other forms of free speech public events.

There will be no net increase in staffing, however training and equipment will cost $41,775.

“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,” City Manager Sterling Cheatham wrote in a letter to city council members.

Wilmington City Council is also expected to consider a resolution declining a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grant, which was awarded to the city in September, would provide partial funding for salary and benefits over the course of three years for 14 additional firefighters for the pilot Aid Car Program, which calls for using smaller vehicles to respond to EMS calls instead of large fire trucks, according to a city spokesperson.

The city estimates that accepting the grant at this time would cost the city approximately $1 million due to requirements of the city to match federal funding.

“While staff thought that sufficient data would exist to properly evaluate the pilot program before accepting the grant, due to staffing shortages, sufficient data does not exist,” a city spokesperson wrote in an email. “As an alternative, staff recommends that the Aid Car Program be phased in gradually as additional data can be collected.”

A full copy of Tuesday's city council meeting can be viewed here.

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