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Civil unrest discussion brings agency, law enforcement together

Civil unrest discussion brings agency, law enforcement together

In an effort to strengthen and build relationships with law enforcement partners, the Washington National Guard conducted a civil disturbance round table discussion focused on a potential civil unrest response on March 1, 2024 at Camp Murray, Wash.

“The biggest thing that I hope we get out of this today is establishing new relationships and building on those existing ones,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Sellars, commanding general, Washington Army National Guard. “We need to break down those walls of excellence and learn something from one another.”

In March of 2023, the Washington National Guard conducted a table-top exercise designed to test and refine the civil disturbance operational plan. The exercise brought together Washington National Guard joint staff members, law enforcement agencies, county and city emergency managers and Washington Emergency Management Division personnel who looked through the operations plan and discussed what did and didn’t work during the 2020 civil unrest in King & Pierce counties. The discussions helped refine the collective understanding of needs, roles, triggers and communication in the event of a similar scenario.

After raising a number of questions a year ago, this year the National Guard was able to provide a clearer operating picture to their civilian counterparts in terms of time frames, training and the rules of use of force and set expectations.

“The goal is to provide the requester the best resources that are cost-effective and exactly what is needed,” said Kevin Wickersham, response section manager, Washington Emergency Management Division. “Sometimes that isn’t the National Guard. Sometimes that might be a civilian or private company.”

Another important part of the conversation was the process of activating members of the National Guard. Washington is what is known as a home-rule state. “Home rule” is a term used by emergency managers, which means control of resources in an emergency or disaster is at the local level. Cities or towns will make a request for assistance to the county in which it resides. If necessary, the county will forward the request to the State Emergency Operations Center where it is entered into Web EOC, an online database.

This year’s discussion also focused on needs for potential future civil unrest.

Group photo during the Civil Disturbance Roundtable Discussion at Bldg. 92, Camp Murray, Wash on March 1, 2024. The roundtable was a continuation of the table-top exercise from 2023.

“We were there to create shared understanding with local stakeholders in the context of civil disturbance since the Washington National Guard is a force provider to augment jurisdictions when their capacity is exceeded,” said LTC Keith Kosik, J7, Joint Force Headquarters and moderator for the event. “We wanted to understand what they thought they would need and where they would need it for the next likely civil disturbance mission. We also wanted to create shared understanding around the Emergency Management Division process to vet requests and identify resources during emergencies, as well as discuss typical Guard capabilities and mission sets during a civil disturbance mission.”