When large numbers of people congregate, there is a need for organized crowd control to provide for the safety and security of everyone involved.
Whether due to hurricane evacuations, floods, political rallies, demonstrations and protests, or events like the Super Bowl, Houston’s Police Department (HPD) crowd control is carried out by its Special Response Group, the SRG.
At their August meeting, participants of Kingwood’s Positive Interaction Program (PIP) were presented a fascinating presentation of the SRG and how it all works by Officer Neil Zozobrado, a 26-year veteran of the HPD.
The SRG consists of a small core group of full-time assigned officers including Zozobrado, and a large group of part-time trained officers from throughout the HPD, that can be mobilized with short notice.
They normally handle around 200 planned and unplanned demonstrations and events each year of all sizes and for all reasons
“When I joined the unit in 2016, there were only five us.
“Within that year, it grew to 16 officers. I am told we are getting another seven officers in the future,” Zozobrado said.
The actual manpower required for crowd control operations is drawn from part-time assignments of HPD officers from all the other departments to the SRG when they are needed.
They include both volunteers and those the HPD assigns to serve in a SRG capacity as needed.
“We can muster up a large number of total of officers in a short time,” he said and humorously noted they can do it every time a cloud comes over Kingwood and threatens to flood. Currently there are over 500 SRG officers ready to go.
The goal of the SRG is to be prepared for any situation and influence a peaceful ending.
The SRG is involved with all protests, demonstrations, rallies and mass gatherings. They are trained, equipped and prepared to handle any type of challenge presented with large crowds.
SRG training is extensive.
It includes a 40-hour basic school, an eight-hour update session two times a year, high water rescue training, response training to active shooter(s) in the crowd, personal radiation detection training, working with the mounted patrol, basic self-aid and “buddy-aid” training.
The equipment the SRG uses is also specialized.
It includes a variety of non-lethal weapons ranging from foam tipped projectiles to tear gas dispersers, to protective vests, crowd control shields and fences, which Zozobrado displayed in a series of photos. “T
The Kingwood PIP meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., at the Kingwood Church of Christ.