Detroit PD adding more security to Thanksgiving parade after Waukesha massacre
City trucks "will be strategically placed" in areas of the largest crowds, police said
By Bill Laitner
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Just when thousands of parade fans hoped to get a break from pandemic stress at Thursday's big holiday parade in downtown Detroit, the weekend carnage at a parade in suburban Milwaukee unleashed a fresh fear: vehicular mayhem.
The horror of a man who police say intentionally drove his SUV into parade viewers and marchers in Waukesha, Wisconsin — killing five and injuring 48 — had law enforcement officials in southeast Michigan saying this week they were reviewing security plans for holiday events, including the annual parade in Detroit.
After discussing the tragedy in Waukesha, Detroit police command staff decided to add "extra measures" to increase parade security this week, a spokesman said. Likewise in Oakland County, all county sheriff's substations were notified to be aware of risks for community events.
Police agencies generally are reluctant to reveal details of their security plans to avoid giving anyone ideas for evading safety measures, said Robert Stevenson, the former chief of Livonia, now executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
Still, whenever a major incident occurs involving the public, such as the one in Waukesha, "we examine it to see if that could happen in our town or city, and then we try to employ whatever tactics are feasible to prevent or lessen the possibility of that occurring," Stevenson said. He said he was confident that Michigan's police agencies would successfully safeguard those attending holiday events, "so much so that I'll be at a big parade with my family on Thanksgiving morning."
Detroit police won't reveal most of the extra measures they plan to take, but one extra measure won't be a secret. The city will park DPS trucks to buttress standard police barricades at key access points to Woodward, and these "will not allow vehicles to enter the parade route," Second Deputy Chief Rudy Harper said.
The city trucks "will be strategically placed" in areas of the largest crowds, Harper said.
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"To people who come to the parade in Detroit, our message is the same as always" for preventing crime: "If you see something, say something," he said. That is, report suspicious activity immediately. There will be numerous officers standing on curbsides along the Woodward Avenue parade route, and positioned on side streets, so that bystanders can request immediate assistance and also call attention to troublemakers.
Harper added: "We also want to say that we offer our deepest condolences to the people in Waukesha for their losses. Those families will be impacted forever."
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, as security leader of the perennially incident-free Woodward Dream Cruise, is nationally known as an expert on the prevention of criminal incidents at public events. Bouchard, a member of the FBI's nationwide Joint Terrorist Task Force, said he "began getting briefed on what was happening in Waukesha" almost immediately after it occurred.
At the Dream Cruise, "we have many security steps we take and we don't talk about them," he said. Still, he said he could say that an important safeguard at parades is to block access points to keep vehicles out. For Detroit's parade, that's a challenge on Woodward almost everywhere except in Detroit's downtown epicenter of skyscrapers and long city blocks, Bouchard said. The farther north one travels from Grand Circus Park, the more access points there are, including side streets, parking lots and alley ways, he said.
"So you have to think outside the box and have multiple protocols in place, so that you can react even if you can't prevent. It's pretty tough in most communities in America that are having parades to eliminate vehicular access," Bouchard said.
"I understand they had barricades in Waukesha but they weren't strong enough to block a vehicle. (The suspect) ran right through a bunch of plastic barricades," he said.
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