Don't worry that local police departments are getting special training from the federal government to deal with "civil disturbances" -- it's merely to protect your freedom of speech.
That's what BSO and several other police departments are saying about a program they're participating in that is offered by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Preparedness (formerly known as FEMA). The program is said to involve training local police in special techniques to deal with protesters who engage in peaceful civil disobedience. And BSO spokesperson Dani Moschella tells New Times that the last time DHS-associated employees came to train BSO deputies in civil disturbance techniques was in 2012.
Local TV news reports say that "understanding free speech" is a central factor in this training.
"These drills and this training is critically important," said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, according to WSVN. "Because if we have an incident like Ferguson, it's probable that many agencies are going to be working together to resolve the issue. Riots are going to spread over different towns and communities, so that exchange in the interoperability becomes critically important."
Of course, Sheriff Israel didn't acknowledge that the unrest in Ferguson never spilled over into other communities and the numerous police departments often caused situations where the number of police officers equaled to the numbers of protesters. And he certainly didn't say anything about the tear gas, flash grenades, rubber bullets, and wood discs fired at protesters throughout the first two weeks of the Ferguson protests.
But who needs facts and context when you can get free training from the section of government that so skillfully handled Hurricane Katrina?
We reached out to the Office of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Preparedness, but three phone numbers for their "public affairs" department went unanswered and only one had a working voicemail -- so don't expect to get a hold of them during an emergency.
In the meantime, here's a local TV news segment of the training that shows an officer mocking the "This is what democracy looks like" chant - because there's nothing funnier than citizens protesting police who kill citizens.
This story was updated to reflect the last time BSO had training led by DHS officials.