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Special Events Team (SET)

Special Events Special Events

The Madison Police Department Special Events Team (SET) was created to formalize the department’s response to events that are beyond the capabilities and staffing of Patrol. SET is responsible for the planning, implementation, and analysis of police services required to manage planned or spontaneous events.

The Special Events Team (SET) is a structured group of Officers and Command Staff with specialized training in crowd management and crowd control techniques. There are also specialty units within SET.

    SET Bike Team:

    The SET Bike Team is utilized for special events where there a large crowd is expected, including, but not limited to large protests/marches, Freakfest/Halloween, the Mifflin Street Block Party, and dignitary visits. Bikes provide advantages for large events because officers on bikes are able to maneuver into and through areas where vehicles would have a harder time going. Having officers on bikes also provides increased accessibility to the public.

    Officers on the SET Bike Team attend biannual team trainings that focus on riding and team formations as well as bike handling skills. Riding skills and techniques come from the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Bicycle Crowd Control team training standards.

    SET Field Extrication Team:

    The Special Events Team (SET) Field Extrication Team (FXT) is an internal resource to allow Madison Police Department personnel to better respond to protest events. The FXT members have specialized training and skills to safely extricate persons from protest devices. Such extrication efforts may be necessary when demonstrators’ actions and/or practices unreasonably impede traffic, restrict the public’s freedom of movement, and/or jeopardize public safety.

    Members of the SET FXT train together on a quarterly basis and have received specialized training at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Center for Domestic Preparedness.

    SET Grenadier Unit:

    The purpose of the Special Events Team’s Grenadier Unit is to ensure the safety of demonstrators, bystanders, and law enforcement officers during crowd control incidents. The Grenadier Unit attempts to achieve this by deploying officers with specialized training and equipment. This training and equipment gives the Special Events Team the capability to safely disperse crowds engaged in unlawful, destructive, and dangerous behavior while maintaining a standoff distance between law enforcement and those engaged in the unlawful assembly. This distance serves to decrease the likelihood of a physical confrontation, can prevent the need for physical intervention options to disperse the unlawful assembly, and can therefore result in safer outcomes for all involved.

    SET Logistics Team:

    The SET Logistics Team is responsible for the organization, standard guidelines, and maintenance of SET’s physical assets. The Special Events Teams equipment includes, but is not limited to, individual protective hard gear for all SET team members, specialty vehicles and trailers, and other dedicated tools and equipment that allow the team to manage crowds in accordance with the “Madison Method” and MPD’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). Members of the SET Logistics Team tackle the extra tasks to ensure that the entire Special Event Team is well-prepared for mobilization and demobilization when team activations and de-activations occur.

    SET Medics Team:

    The purpose of the SET Medics Team is to augment the capabilities of the entire Special Events Team by providing immediate emergency casualty care to officers and community members under conditions in which it is not safe or feasible for Emergency Medical Services to immediately respond. The SET Medics Team consists of approximately 16 team members, each possessing a wide range of training, experience and certifications (including Paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and Basic First Aid). Several members of the SET Medics Team have worked or volunteered in Emergency Medical Services and a number of our officers are certified through the Wisconsin State Department of Justice as Tactical Emergency Casualty Care instructors.

    SET Medics hold quarterly trainings that include lecture, skills-based training, and scenarios. The SET Medics Team operates under the guidance of the Madison Police Department’s Medical Director, Dr. Ashley Anderson, MD.


The mission of the Madison Police Department's Special Events Team is to protect the first amendment right of community members to assemble peacefully and to voice their opinions on issues that are often sensitive and emotional in nature. We believe in the dignity of all people and respect individual and constitutional rights in fulfilling this mission. Members of the Madison Police Department's Special Events Team have an obligation to protect community members' rights, yet maintain order and protect life and property.

SET Know Your Rights

SET Know Your Rights

The Madison Police Department's philosophy and principals on managing crowds.

It is the responsibility of MPD personnel to protect the rights of people to peaceably assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof.

When working with crowds, the overall police philosophy must be one of moderation and flexibility. To the degree that it can be done safely, it is preferred that crowd participants self-regulate and manage their own events.

Communication between police and event organizers before and during events can create mutual understanding, generate cooperation and compliance, and prevent disorder. During crowd events, MPD personnel may make announcements to the crowd; these announcements are designed to convey general information, to communicate targeted information to specific individuals, and to serve as a de-escalation tool by directing and informing the crowd in an attempt to prevent the need for police action.

Crowds are dynamic in nature. The totality of the circumstances must inform the decision to introduce police action to maintain public safety. The preferred police response is one of crowd management rather than crowd control.

MPD personnel have an obligation to protect community members’ rights while maintaining order, protecting property, and ensuring safety, peace, and order. Freedom of speech, association, and assembly, and the right to petition the government are subject to reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression.

When deciding whether to use certain police tactics within a crowd, MPD personnel must always balance the benefits of such action(s) to maintain public safety and order along with the impact on the demonstration participants’ freedom of speech and assembly, and the impact on people and property. MPD personnel prioritize life, safety, protection of property, and constitutional rights, with an emphasis on life safety.

When safe and feasible and without compromising public safety, MPD personnel should seek opportunities to reduce the likelihood of the need to use force. Our goal while managing large events is to maintain order; our officers are trained to respond with only the amount of force necessary to accomplish this goal. This includes confronting people regarding city ordinance violations, illegal activity, affecting arrests for serious violations, and discouraging unlawful behavior.

The "Madison Method" Seven Principles of Handling Crowds and Demonstrations

  1. We PROTECT community members' constitutional rights to assemble, petition the government and engage in free speech.
  2. We are IMPARTIAL and remain neutral regardless of the issue.
  3. We maintain OPEN DIALOGUE with community members and the news media before, during and after demonstrations.
  4. We MONITOR demonstrations and marches to protect individual rights and ensure public safety.
  5. We BALANCE the rights of demonstrators with the rights of the community at large.
  6. We use RESTRAINT in the use of force. We protect people first and property second.
  7. We, as PEACE OFFICERS pursue CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT of our method.