Public panic situations become growing challenge for law enforcement

EMBED </>More Videos

Joe Torres has a followup on two recent incidents of public panic.

Recent events where mass gatherings thought they heard gunfire may indicate New Yorkers are becoming more skittish.

The question is whether police should change their training about these situations.

Panic at Penn Station and chaos at Coney Island.

The common denominator between the two reports of 'shots fired': in both cases, those reports were false. And that presents quite a challenge for responding officers.

"Finding out exactly what happened, determining witness," said former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "People are telling you what happened based on what happened based on what someone else told them."

Last summer panic spread through JFK Airport when loud popping noises led to panic. A mad dash onto the tarmac for some people, a scramble for cover for others.

Now with the popularity, the speed and the reach of social media, an ever-growing universe of people can quickly gain access to information that's completely inaccurate.

So on Sunday in Brooklyn, what did the NYPD do to help restore order? They put out a tweet that cleared up not just what happened, but what didn't happen.


"Social media is both a hindrance and help in situations where you have a panic," said Kelly.

The world we live in today dictates people remain on high alert, all the time.

Furthermore, New Yorkers are well-trained in the mantra of 'If you see something, say something.'

What's less clear is, how should you respond 'if you HEAR something'.

"Ideally what you would ask people to do is find out the facts or the details as to what happened," said Kelly. "Unfortunately people are not going to wait around to determine of the specifics of a particular event."

Related Topics:
penn stationconey islandpoliceNew York City
(Copyright ©2017 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)