Universities are not immune from civil disorder, and the University of Georgia Police Department maintains a Mobile Field Force Team to assist in restoring order when necessary. A fundamental role of law enforcement is to protect the rights of all people to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, protest, or rally. In turn, law enforcement also has the responsibility to ensure public safety and to protect the lives and property of all people. The goal of maintaining order while protecting the freedoms of speech and assembly stands as one of law enforcement’s greatest challenges. Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, and Arizona are only a handful of states that have experienced civil unrest at their universities. The catalyst for such behavior varies and can include protesting local or foreign affairs, changes in university policy, and athletics.
The size of the University of Georgia, its acceptance of a variety of viewpoints, and its successful athletic programs promote large gatherings of students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Large crowds have the potential to become disorderly if a flashpoint is reached based on any of the previously mentioned catalysts. When this happens, the Mobile Field Force Team can be an effective and skillful response to restore calm and preserve safety.
The Mobile Field Force Team is comprised of every sworn officer from all divisions within the police department. Each officer has immediate access to protective equipment and trains throughout the year in crowd control tactics. Officers are capable of responding to a variety of behaviors and have the ability to provide rapid, organized and disciplined response to civil disorder, and control or disburse unruly crowds.
In 2004, the Mobile Field Force Team was asked to assist during the G8 Conference held at Sea Island, Georgia. In support of Georgia’s quest to host a successful conference, the University of Georgia Police Department’s Mobile Field Force Team was assigned as a response team at one of the most critical sites during the G8 Conference—the Multiple Agency Communications Center located at the St. Simons airport.