TPD officers undergo riot training ahead of NCAA Tournament - Tucson News Now

TPD officers undergo riot training ahead of NCAA Tournament

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson police are tuning up for March Madness.

While University of Arizona basketball fans would love to see the team win another national title, no one wants to see a repeat of the trouble that's followed their trips to championship games.

There were riots in Tucson when the Wildcats won in 1997 and again when they lost in 2001.

Officers have been undergoing anti-riot training at the Public Safety Academy on south Wilmot Road.

Tucson isn't the only U.S. city that has seen rioting after sporting events.

So, Tucson police say they have traveled the country, learning from other departments and from what has happened in Tucson too.

Officers practiced what's called a skirmish line. 

They wore helmets with face shields and had their batons out in front of them.

They moved forward, shouting, "Move!"  "Back!"

TPD Assistant Chief Brett Klein says the skirmish line is intended to break up crowds, especially before things get out of hand.

Klein says, historically, incidents tend to happen after Final 4 games and after the NCAA Championship game.

He says TPD has plans for both evenings, before and after the games.

The expectation is that the UA Wildcats will be there on their way to the championship.

Klein says TPD will have more than 300 officers out for the championship game.

The department will be assisted by Pima County Sheriff's deputies and officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the University of Arizona Police Department.

"So that people will know that they can come to Fourth Avenue, they can come to Congress and they can support the Wildcats and they can have a good time, but that behavior that results in riotous behavior where they start breaking things and people get injured--that's simply not tolerated," Klein says.

Fourth Avenue merchants and workers we spoke with like the idea that TPD is preparing.

"Peaceful resolution is always better than people rioting," says Justin Schooley who works at Sacred Art Tattoo on Fourth Avenue.

Monica Cota owns Rustic Candle Company, across the street from Sacred Art Tattoo.

"I've been down here for nearly 12 years and I'd like to keep the shop intact. So I appreciate everybody coming together to keep it a safe environment," Cota says.

Assistant Chief Klein says the lessons from the 2001 Fourth Avenue riot are reflected in the training officers are now getting.

He says officers will be out early with pre-game and after-game strategies.

He says the goal is to prevent any problems by making sure people have an understanding of what behavior is expected on the streets.

He says people should have fun while staying out of trouble.

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