510 – Special Response Group (SRG)
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Special Response Group (SRG) is designed to provide communication, coordination, and special tactics between HCSO entities and outside agency personnel in a crowd control event.
This policy dictates the functions, training requirements, and equipment for SRG.
SRG will ensure a large number of specially trained and equipped employees are available on short notice in response to any event with a potential to require crowd control. Such events may include parades, athletic events, public demonstrations, and man-made or natural disasters. SRG will enhance public safety and reduce duplication of effort during crowd control events.
Members of SRG are expected to protect participants of a protest exercising their First Amendment rights. The agency will place only those limitations and restrictions on demonstrations necessary to maintain public safety and order and to the degree possible, facilitate unrestricted commerce and freedom of movement. Operations conducted by SRG will be reflective of the HCSO core values despite the potential for chaos presented by large crowds.
A. The SRG will be under the Homeland Security Bureau and may only be activated and deployed at the direction of the Marine Tactical Operations Commander, or his or her designee.
B. The SRG Commander oversees the functions of the SRG, at the direction of the Marine Tactical Operations Commander, and may appoint another SRG member with the responsibility to oversee these functions.
IV. Removal From SRG
The SRG Commander may remove or suspend any member from SRG duty or membership at any time it is determined to be in the best interest of the HCSO or the affected employee.
A. Members and former members may appeal suspension or termination from SRG to the Homeland Security Bureau Commander whose decision will be final. Removal reasons may include, but are not limited to:
1. Failing to meet training requirements;
2. Failing to respond to a call out without appropriate justification as determined by the SRG Commander;
3. Misuse of, or improper care for equipment; or
4. Bringing discredit upon the HCSO or SRG through a violation of the Department Manual.
V. Entry and Training Requirements
Completion of the basic SRG training course is required to join SRG.
A. The Homeland Security Bureau Commander or designee will review the applicants PEWS to verify the applicant has met the acceptable performance standards.
B. Members must attend refresher training designated by the SRG Commander.
C. Specialized teams, and members who wish to join those teams, will be required to attend additional training designated by the SRG Commander.
D. Failure to attend an SRG training cycle will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the SRG Commander to determine whether the member should be allowed to remain in SRG.
The SRG uniform will be determined by the SRG Commander.
A. Class C uniforms (see Policy #240 – Dress Code) may be authorized based on the volatility of the event, the possibility of less-lethal munitions being deployed, and the chance a subject may utilize an incendiary device of any kind.
B. Specialized units within SRG may be assigned different uniforms appropriate for their responsibilities as determined by the SRG Commander.
C. The SRG Commander may modify the current uniform to include gas masks, protection pads, and helmets, if he or she reasonably believes there is potential for violence to occur justifying the use of such equipment.
D. SRG members in good standing will be issued a recognition pin. Only active SRG members are authorized to wear the pin.
A. SRG members participating in an SRG call out will be provided appropriate equipment as determined by the SRG Commander.
B. SRG members assigned a county-owned vehicle are required to carry assigned equipment in their vehicle while on duty to ensure a quick response to any unplanned event. The standard SRG equipment for crowd control may include:
1. Riot helmet;
2. Face shield;
3. Gas mask;
4. 26 inch baton;
5. Chest pads;
6. Forearm pads;
7. Shin pads; and
8. Other equipment deemed appropriate by the SRG Commander.
C. Specialized units within SRG may be required to carry additional specialized equipment as determined by the SRG Commander. The additional items may include, but are not limited to:
1. 36 inch baton;
2. 40mm launcher;
3. PepperBall weapon system;
4. MK-9 Aerosol Projector;
5. MK-46 Aerosol Projector;
6. 40mm single-gas munition launcher;
7. Hand-tossed chemical agent munitions;
8. 40mm Direct Impact brand munitions both with and without chemical agent payload; and
9. Other equipment deemed appropriate by the SRG Commander.
Only qualified personnel will use these weapons. Qualified personnel are those who have received and passed appropriate training in the use of these specific weapons.
Deployment of these weapons will be at the discretion of a squad commander or higher authority. Although the above listed weapons are classified as less-lethal weapons, the potential exists that these devices could inflict serious injuries. Due to this potential, these devices will only be deployed subsequent to a verbal dispersal order. The use of these weapons will not be deployed indiscriminately into crowds.
VIII. Buffer Zone
A. If a buffer zone is utilized, it should be large enough for SRG members to safely observe demonstrators’ behavior while ensuring intentional or unintentional contact does not occur and the distance is not so great as to deny constitutional rights. Restrictions imposed may not be substantially broader than reasonably necessary to maintain the safety of persons on scene.
B. The incident commander may order opposing groups to be separated if he or she determines they are physically close enough to present a risk of disrupting the assembly, or creating a hazardous situation. This should be accomplished in the following manner, and only if the situation reasonably permits:
1. Attempt to inform opposition of the majority, for their own safety and that of others, they must relocate to a safer area, or
2. Establish a buffer zone using barricades, SRG members, and mounted patrol.
C. Persons refusing to relocate who then disrupt, interfere, or obstruct a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering, may be detained to determine if a complainant is willing to file charges for a violation of law.
D. Persons who refuse to move in compliance with SRG commands, or refuse to heed barricades by actions other than speech, may be arrested in accordance with applicable law.
IX. Policing Crowds
Recognizing not all members of a crowd are the same is essential. If some members of a crowd become violent, the situation often turns chaotic, and much of the crowd who do not wish to participate in violent or destructive behavior may be blocked from leaving the scene because of the size of the crowd or due to fear they will move into a position of heightened danger.
A. Targeted application of aerosol agents may be used against specific individuals who are reasonably perceived to be attempting to cause physical harm to any person or threatening imminent physical injury to any person, engaged in looting or the destruction of property, or displaying intent to engage in physical resistance to a lawful police order.
B. SRG members must avoid negative verbal engagement with subjects in a crowd. Unprofessional behavior may inflame a tense situation and make control efforts more difficult and dangerous.
C. Impulsive or independent actions by SRG members will be avoided. A response based upon teamwork is crucial to maintaining control and safety.
D. SRG members will not be sent into an obviously hostile crowd solely for the purpose of communication.
E. SRG members must not penetrate a crowd for an arrest unless the targeted subject is involved in serious criminal conduct as determined by a supervisor.
X. Prohibited Techniques
The following techniques are prohibited in crowd control situations:
1. Use of fire hoses,
2. Use of hand-thrown rubber pellet grenades,
3. Use of canine units, and
4. Any techniques prohibited by Policy #501 – Use of Force and the Department Manual.
XI. Digital Recording of Events
When digital recording equipment is available, events warranting an SRG response must be recorded if reasonably practical and appropriate.
A. Recording will be accomplished by department issue Body-Worn Camera, handheld camcorder, or digital camera.
B. Each digital recording will be reviewed for evidentiary or training value within 30 calendar days of the event.
C. Each digital recording will be retained in accordance with Policy #618 – Body-Worn Cameras (BWC).
D. If the digital recording is determined to be of training value, the entire digital recording will be retained. With the approval of the SRG Commander, edited versions may be used for training purposes.
E. If the digital recording is determined to have evidentiary value, it must be maintained in accordance with the Department Manual.
XII. After Action Documentation
A. All SRG personnel will be accounted for and assessed for injuries.
B. The SRG Commander will conduct a debriefing and document all actions taken during the event. This is to provide for training improvements.
C. A written report will be completed within 72-hours after the incident. The report will include details of the incident, the agencies’ response to the incident, equipment used, injuries, arrests, and any other details important to the incident.
This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:
April 9, 2013
December 3, 2020
June 12, 2022