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2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Friday, April 18, 2008

This year’s party wasn’t like 1988

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City calm after storm

Lawrence is settling down after KU's national championship win. 6News reporter Jesse Fray spoke with the police chief, who says keeping local celebrations safe took faith -- and two decades of planning.

It was April 4, 1988. Kansas University's men's basketball team had just won the National Championship. And Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin said things were a mess.

"It was an emotional outpouring," Olin recalled.

As people climbed light poles, fell out of trees and caused damage, there weren't enough resources to control the crowd, the chief said.

"People : were permanently injured as a result of that celebration," said Olin, who became chief of the department just five months earlier.

After the wild party, Olin immediately started planning for the next championship win. Two decades later, his work paid off.

Of the estimated 40,000 people who celebrated KU's 2008 National Championship win in downtown Lawrence on April 7, only three were arrested.

"We tried to put together a celebrating environment, in which we constructively engaged people to party, but not to do bad things," Olin said.

More than 200 officers from eight law enforcement agencies policed the area. Despite patrolling for unruly drivers and asking fans on the street to throw away bottles and cans, the officers were a part of the party. They chatted with fans, gave them high-fives and tended to drunken falls.

A few nights earlier, after KU's April 5 semifinal win against North Carolina, the 200 officers on Massachusetts Street became something of a lucky charm, said Capt. Dek Kruger, Kansas Highway Patrol troop commander.

"Somebody started a rumor that it's good luck to pat cops on the butt," he said. "My backside was a little bit tender from all of the slaps I was taking."

It was this type of camaraderie and flexibility that Olin outlined in a 20-plus page operation plan ahead of the celebration.

"I really have to take my hat off to your chief," said Kruger, who is based in Olathe. "If that crowd had turned on us and things had blown up in our faces ... that would've been bad news for him."

Olin's plan included contingencies, in case the mass of fans took a turn for the worse. But the chief said he had faith in Jayhawk fans.

"We trust the community and they responded accordingly," Olin said. "We thank the citizens for working with us."

After a debriefing with participating agencies Tuesday, the focus now turns to planning for the next championship win.

"It's going to be a more elaborate plan in the future, but it'll be a good one and we're ready," Olin said.

Comments

okiedave 11 years, 9 months ago

A national championship is a magical experience. You walk around with a smile on your face for days. You mentally review the greatest shot in Jayhawk history that sent the game in overtime. And to top it off, you get to slap cops on the butt and they think it is all good. A championship simply changes all the rules for a few days.

drum1984 11 years, 9 months ago

Olin might be the most enlightened guy in the history of law enforcement. 99% of confrontations between police and citizenry would be eliminated with this kind of approach.

NH_JHawk 11 years, 9 months ago

Even the national media (Steve Czaban from Fox Sports Radio on XM) commented on how classy the Jayhawk fans were after winning the championship. He said: "Way to go Jayhawk fans. 40,000 people celebrating in Lawrence with only 3 arrests. That's the definition of classy fans who know how to do it right."

Robert Brock 11 years, 9 months ago

Sort of like being on police patrol in New Orleans' French Quarter - ya gotta cut some slack, Jack!

hawkergirl 11 years, 9 months ago

Great job by all involved. Glad he's getting ready for another Championship because it won't be long!!

John Stowell 11 years, 9 months ago

I have to give the police credit for taking it all in stride. There were a lot of people who could have been cited or arrested for public intoxication or open containers, and the police were level headed enough to concentrait on just keeping people safe. Kansas fans to their credit were classy enough to celebrate without turning to vandalism or anything else as dumb. All in all, it was a great place to be for everyone.

cklarock 11 years, 9 months ago

Olin's plan was pitch-perfect, and the Lawrence (and surrounding area) police deserve all the pats on the butt they got. They did a great job, and I can't imagine 40,000 drunken people celebrating in a safer, more friendly environment.Well done, officers. Nice play.

KUbsee69 11 years, 9 months ago

Let's hope that the new, more elaborate plan gets executed in the not too distant future.Like Coach Self said, wouldn't two be great (under his reign).

pmohr13 11 years, 9 months ago

One of my professor's is on the O'rielly Factor and they were going to do a piece on vandalism after winning a big game, but couldn't get any footage so they scrapped the idea. As Ron Burgundy would say "Stay classy Lawrence!!!"

lance1jhawk 11 years, 9 months ago

I've met police Chief Ron Olin... A very remarkable guy. He travels the country giving lectures on terrorism and how to combat it. He spoke in one of my poli-sci classes at KU. When I asked about how he told his officers to handle the crowds in '93 he said If you put them (Officers) out in riot gear, you will get a riot. If you tell them to go out and have fun with the rest of the crowd, but keep every one safe, you will get a very nice party. Very forward thinking Police Chief.I'm really suprised that he hasn't been recruited to a larger town, with his background.

Eric Dawson 11 years, 9 months ago

lance1 -- how do you know he hasn't? Lots of folks, myself included, leave Lawrence only to return years later. It's just a nice place to live. Best hoops coach I ever knew personally (perennial Top 20, often Top 10 in national JUCO ranks) never left the little town of Cumberland, MD because it was where he wanted to be. Olin may just feel the same about Lawrence.

jayhawk77 11 years, 9 months ago

Well done Chief! I hear it's also good luck to go up 40-12 on UNC. We should make that a tradition as well. That is...if they make the tourney next year.

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