Report Finds Room for Improvement in Handling of Blarney Blowout

Report claims police did not properly plan for the event and that there was “command confusion.”

Former Boston Police Commissioner, Edward Davis, released a 65-page report detailing his findings on the handling of the UMass Blarney Blowout event in North Amherst last March, during which, 73 people were arrested and four police were officers injured. The event was part of a pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration located mostly off campus.

The report cites several missteps by both the Amherst Police Department (APD) and the UMass Amherst Police Department (UMPD) and claims both law enforcement entities failed to adequately plan for the event, which had received buzz on social media sites for several weeks prior.

“After review of all reports provided, it is clear there was no advance written plan from APD or UMPD specific to this event, for use of police resources and in predicting the size and behavior of the crowds, despite many warning signs in the days leading up to the event,” Davis says in his report.

He also claims the decision by police to don riot gear and use tear gas to disperse crowds exacerbated the situation and, “had the effect of creating confusion and perpetuating the unruly behavior of the crowds.”

The report says several factors contributed to the “unorganized” police response including “immense pressure” and “command confusion.” The APD’s sworn force consists of 46 members, not all of which worked the event. As a result, the police on scene were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and unable to disperse the crowd effectively.

In the report, Davis did offer praise for the officers’ efforts, even though he did not find them without fault, saying, “police confronted overwhelming odds and were being inundated with calls for help. Despite these facts, they managed to quell the disturbances without serious injury. For this they should be thanked.”

He goes on to point out that the intention of the report was not to place blame, but to seek improvement for the future.

“This is not a classic after-action report or an evaluation of any one entity’s role or performance. The examination of the large-scale incident on and off campus at planned and unplanned occasions, including, but not limited to, the 2014 and preceding years’ Blarney Blowout” offers lessons for improved use of information, coordination, anticipation, preparation and response.”

The report makes several recommendations including:

  • Increasing the size of the APD force according to national best practices
  • Developing clear expectations regarding lines of authority and decision making prior to and during an event
  • Creating standard practices for shared operational planning, unified command structure, operation of joint emergency operation centers, joint tactical training and collaborative after action review between APD and UMD
  • Establishing a Civilian Advisory Group to enhance police-community relations

Read the full report here.

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