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Dubuque Police weigh perceptions when using tactical team

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DUBUQUE — When police officers wearing military-style uniforms and carrying rifles show up in a neighborhood, police say bystander panic often follows. But Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing says they have to use that kind of force in order to protect themselves.

“It generally has some context to it, that they are going to harm themselves or others or that somehow the weapon is going to come into play,” he said.

Dalsing says the department’s tactical team is needed on average six to 10 times each year, and a police administrative team does consider public perception when deciding to use it.

“We try to do our operations as low key as possible,” said Dalsing. “We don’t have a heavy armored marked vehicle that rolls up.”

Dalsing says social media plays a role in what he calls the fear factor. Rumors spread almost as fast the team can respond.

Dalsing said, “There’s a scanner online transmitting every bit of our radio traffic. When there are people who come running to the scene because they heard it on the radio, they’re all taking cellphone video of it and saying ‘you have to come check this out.’”

In 2011, the department started what it calls “The Mobile Field Force.” That team is trained specifically for crowd control. Those officers wear a typical police uniform but with options to add a helmet or body armor. So far, that team hasn’t had any situations to respond to.

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