MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Police allowed WCCO to see firsthand how officers trained for handling last month’s “Dinkytown Disturbance.”

Police say they were far more prepared for last month’s event than they were during the riot in 2003. Each of these police situations occurred after the Gopher men’s hockey team appeared in national championship games.

Lt. Jon Kingsbury shows us a 40 millimeter launcher which shoots out a sponge round. Police spokesman John Elder volunteered to be Kingsbury’s target during a demonstration on Wednesday.

“It’s nothing that’s incapacitating. It just lets you know that you don’t want to stick around for more,” Elder said.

He was wearing a vest while he was shot, but he will still likely have a significant bruise. As many as 30 officers were carrying the launchers the nights of April 10 and April 12.

But Assistant Chief Matt Clark says they were only used when absolutely necessary.

“The officers showed a lot of discipline and especially a lot of patience,” Clark said.

He says the department was far more prepared than the 2003 riot when the Gopher hockey team beat New Hampshire in the title game. Fires, injuries and arrests were common that year.

“We were well prepared for 2014. We had folks at ready to go,” he said.

Clark says officers, Chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Betsy Hodges were out talking to students ahead of time.

When crowds formed, police formed their own tactical lines. They say several orders for dispersal were announced before any arrests were made, and the sponge rounds were only used on the most serious offenders.

Inspector Kathy Waite believes the effort to reach out through social media made a big difference, an option the department didn’t have in 2003.

“We could have had many more students down there. They got 50,000 students at the University of Minnesota,” Waite said. “The word got out and certainly it did have an impact.”

Police say a total of 45 sponge rounds were used over two nights. They say the night of the national championship cost them $140,000 in overtime, which is still within their budget.

Assistant Chief Clark says the department really wouldn’t change a thing as far as how the event was handled.

John Lauritsen