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Updated Jul 4, 2014 - 1:28 pm

Tucson police consider options for unruly crowds

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Tucson Police Department is considering a change in tactics while dealing with unruly crowds in the aftermath of a raucous gathering following the University of Arizona's loss in the NCAA tournament.

An independent review of the department's response found that ``staffing levels hindered the ability to quickly arrest the significant number of persons violating the law,'' the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The review board also suggested that police more swiftly arrest those inciting the behavior and make greater use of ``aerosol munitions'' to disperse crowds.

In addition, the board indicated that the lights and sirens of police cars, along with officer dressed in riot gear, may have agitated the crowd.

In a memo to the city manager this week, Police Chief Roberto Villaseor said that while all of the board's recommendations may not prove useful, the department will consider the effect that a large and visible police presence has on unruly crowds.

Villaseor also said that an officer involved in arresting people will be disciplined after the board found inappropriate use of force.

The FBI also is reviewing the officer's behavior for potential civil rights violations.

The crowd gathered March 29 after the Wildcats' loss in the tournament. Authorities said that about 200 rounds of pepper-ball ammunition were fired, and at least 15 people were arrested.

Villaseor said the department had a ``significant presence'' with nearly 150 officers, and he expected the crowd would obey orders and disperse, but that didn't happen.

``They're just launching stuff at us and staying there and not leaving, and we'd push them back and they'd come right back in. It's unfortunate, but I think in the future we're going to have to staff additional (officers) to keep this from happening,'' the chief said.

He acknowledged that having police in full riot gear may have ``served to antagonize some of the kids.''

``Maybe that's the lesson we learned, to keep them out of sight,'' Villaseor said.

The department is considering asking the Tucson City Council to create so-called ``celebration zones'' for future events that would allow for closing off streets and providing guidelines for area businesses.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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