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Public safety must always ‘trump’ reactionary protesting

By Sheriff Leon Lott

President-elect Donald Trump will become the 45th U.S. president on Jan. 20, 2017. And his inauguration as with any presidential inauguration or similar event will bring with it a whole host of public safety challenges – even national security issues – that few Americans (outside the various law enforcement communities) will even consider. This particular inauguration may also present a number of law-enforcement challenges not previously experienced.

I won’t get into the politics of this particular election year or this forthcoming inauguration except to say, Trump will be our new president, and we all as Americans will make a choice to either embrace that fact (if we voted for him) or simply accept and abide by the legal reality of it (if we did not vote for him). We also have a responsibility to appreciate the gravity of what our law enforcement agencies and officers will have to deal with in terms of pre-inauguration strategic preparations as well as inauguration-day operations with all the variables that will entail.

This will prove to be an enormous security operation fraught with every imaginable scenario, and as such we need to support our local, state, and national law-enforcement agencies’ efforts in this.

Let’s look at a few of the basic issues and challenges.

An article published in Domestic Preparedness Journal, stated, “Protests in modern society are very different from even a decade ago. Emergency planners and public safety leaders have to understand that protests are not always locally driven and sponsored. In addition, protesters and extremists are not always from the community and not all are there to work with protest leaders to understand the issues and activities of the protesters.”

Indeed. And these facts present myriad public-safety problems requiring creative new approaches to security in 2016 and 2017. Here are a few:


  1. Law-enforcement agencies are responsible for protecting the lives and properties of all people.
  2. Police officers, deputies, and other uniformed and non-uniformed officers tasked with public safety have to ensure that firefighters and medical first-responders have safe and unfettered access to the areas and people they serve.
  3. Traffic flow in-and-out and around the city must be properly managed.
  4. Potential terrorist threats and other criminal threats must be mitigated.
  5. There are weighty issues as regards personnel numbers and available resources stemming from increased security requirements whenever there is an influx of large numbers of people and whenever lots of VIPs are present.
  6. Crowd control is never easy. It may look easy, but that’s because we in law enforcement are good at what we do. Truth be known, crowd management and control are tough; perhaps even more challenging in the current political and social climate in which we find ourselves.


All this, and yet law-enforcement – which so-often in the modern era is operating under the proverbial microscope – is stretched to its absolute limits in terms of manpower (actual and reserve) and having to be everywhere at once and able to effectively respond to any and all scenarios.

Point being, we all need to appreciate what our law-enforcement leaders and the men and women under their command will be tasked with on this day, and all others.

Granted, we all as Americans have a right to protest, and our serving law-enforcement officers are always – and will always – protect that right. But that right must be measured. No protest should ever even-begin to devolve into civil unrest, rioting, and violence (as so many have recently). No protest is ever more important than our public safety.

Don’t make our security issues tougher than they already will be. Practice responsible behavior. Consider your neighbors in the broader community. Yes, put others first.

For those who might consider protesting, you need to fully understand that your actions will indeed be drawing vital law-enforcement resources away from others who need them perhaps in a life-or-death situation. Again, you have a right, and we’ll protect that right. But no protest or public demonstration is ever worth even one injury or fatality.

Help us – enable us – to better protect you and others.


– Sheriff Leon Lott leads the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept., one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state. In 2010, Lott traveled to Erbil, Iraq – at the invitation of the Iraqi government – to assist in the establishment of, planning for, and training at the first-ever Iraqi female police academy.

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