Cleveland Lays Out Republican National Convention Security Plans

A Cleveland police officer patrols the floor during a Donald Trump rally.
A Cleveland police officer patrols the floor during a Donald Trump rally. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

For months now, information about Republican National Convention security has become public drop by drop. A request for riot gear bids here, a contract to broker liability insurance there.

But Tuesday morning, Cleveland police, fire and EMS leaders laid out their plans. It was the longest public presentation to date, although they said there were elements of their plans they couldn’t discuss.

'We Have Enough Officers to Do This'

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams tried to deflate any doubts about the city’s readiness for a convention that’s now less than 50 days away.

“We are prepared. We are ready,” Williams said. “And our partners are out there prepared and ready. There are going to be officers and individuals and things that you will never see, but they’ll be here making sure this city is safe.”

Police expect 500 local officers working security downtown—plus, another 2,500 to 2,700 from outside the city.

Cleveland has been trying to strike agreements with departments across the country to bring their police to town. One such department in Greensboro, North Carolina, backed out. Williams played it down.

“Agencies have responded, some agencies haven’t,” he said. “Agencies have been in, agencies have been out. But we are clear and prepared in our plan that we have enough officers to do this.”

Police Equipment and Video Cameras

And though the city is buying riot gear and steel batons, Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said officers won’t come out with that equipment unless they need it.

“I can tell you that we will not be standing around with that personal protective gear on at all,” Tomba said. “It’s going to be a different approach.”

An approach that involves officers in regular uniforms on foot, on bicycles and on horses.

Many will be wearing body cameras, though police in their riot gear won’t. Instead, a video unit will be on hand to record encounters between police and demonstrators. That’s in addition to more than 100 security cameras across the city that officials say they can monitor.

Preparing for Protests and the Possibility of Arrests

Tomba said police will respond if demonstrators run afoul of the law.  

“We’re not going to stand for any lawlessness,” he said. “If someone breaks the law, we’re going to take swift, appropriate and constitutional action.”

Cleveland’s courts are getting ready for possible arrests as well. Municipal court is preparing to operate 24 hours a day if needed. Defense attorneys are on call, and there are plans to reserve space in Cuyahoga and Geauga county jails.

The city is also accepting applications for permits to march along the official demonstration route and to speak at Public Square. Civil liberties advocates have questioned and criticized these plans.

Chief Calvin Williams said police are open to meeting with protest groups.

“There have been a lot of groups that have actually reached out to us for parade permit requirements, locations, things like that,” Williams said. “But if there’s a group out there that wants to sit down with us to talk to us about things they want to do during the convention, we’re definitely open to that.”

Fire and EMS

The fire department plans to have hazmat and decontamination teams stationed downtown. And EMS Commissioner Nicole Carlton said medical staff will be ready to respond to emergencies both inside the convention arena and outside it.

“Cleveland EMS is able to provide immediate assessment and treatment if needed and then take people back to the medical treatment areas, and if necessary will transport people to area hospitals,” Carlton said.

Meanwhile, Tomba acknowledged that one major question is still in the air: Just where will the Secret Service draw the lines for the secure zone that will be blocked off during the convention?

“Publicly, the Secret Service says if you can see Quicken Loans Arena and throw a baseball at it, you’re probably going to be in that secure zone,” he said.

Summing up the city’s security plans, Tomba said Clevelanders will be able to conduct “business as usual, in an unusual manner.”

ideastream host Tony Ganzer talks with Nick Castele about RNC security plans:



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