Officials caution there are few parts of the plan that are concrete: They may shut down the whole area - and bar owners may shut down, too - after the game ends, and send out officers trained in the use of specialized "less-lethal" munitions if problems arise, said Capt. Clayton Kidd, the Tucson Police Department's operations chief for the tournament. Kidd
says some things are etched in stone: More than 300 officers with gas masks, helmets, face shields and 36-inch batons, in addition to standard firearms, will secure the area.The officers will arrest anyone committing a crime, stop people from mingling outside, and erect 3-by-7-foot pedestrian barricades at halftime to funnel people from the area after the game ends.The barricades will extend into the street and basically direct people out at the end of each block.
Police also will stop traffic from entering the area by posting officers along Third and Fifth avenues and Ninth Street and University Boulevard starting at noon, he
said.The championship game is scheduled for April 7.
"One could say, 'Are we being heavy-handed this year as compared to the past?' " Kidd
said."My answer is, 'Yes.' I guess we'll just have to take that hit."
Many of the police moves are based on a philosophical change of attitude from how officers handled rowdy crowds in 1997 and 2001 - when the University of Arizona men's basketball team also went to the championship game, Kidd
Then, officers tolerated minor problems in hopes of preventing major problems.Now, he
said, they'll tolerate nothing.
A 124-page internal report prepared after the April 2, 2001, post-game riot concluded that some officers were not properly trained in riot-control tactics and the use of less-than-lethal munitions; the order to disperse was not effectively communicated to the crowd; and traffic was not properly managed.
Police fired more than 300 rounds of less-than-lethal ammunition and used 134 crowd-dispersing grenades.Many of those who were injured, including merchants and journalists, said police fired on them without warning.
"We've come to the conclusion that to deal with crowd-related problems, we need to put all our efforts upfront," Kidd
said."We understand we create the opportunity to riot elsewhere," he
said."But I'd rather take on a bunch of small problems than one large problem."
New to the department's arsenal are pepper balls, 40 millimeter sponge batons and smoke and tear gas grenades, Lt.
said police plan to start increasing their presence on Fourth Avenue with the first tournament game the Wildcats play.As the team progresses, police presence will increase.
Police have made some recommendations to bar owners too, he
said, including asking them to use Styrofoam or plastic cups instead of bottles or cans, and bringing in more staffers to help clear parking lots if the area closes.