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Cleveland Quietly Prepares Security Plans for the Republican National Convention

Reince Priebus and members of the Cleveland host committee enter the floor of the Q in 2014. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
Reince Priebus and members of the Cleveland host committee enter the floor of the Q in 2014.

by Nick Castele

There’s less than four months to go before the Republican National Convention comes to Northeast Ohio. And Cleveland is quietly preparing to keep the event secure, even as civil rights groups are raising questions about the city’s methods.

In federal government jargon, the RNC is a National Special Security Event. It means Cleveland is planning security with the help of the Secret Service and a $50 million federal grant.

Part of that money will pay for about 2,500 out-of-town officers, in addition to Cleveland’s 1500-person force, according to city council safety committee chair Matt Zone.

The city is also buying bicycles, barricades and 2,000 sets of riot gear.

This week, activists in Cleveland, including Jacqueline Greene with the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, said the city should be more forthcoming.

“We call on the mayor, the Cleveland division of police, and city council to protect the residents of the city, visitors, and convention participants equally,” Greene said.

She and other groups want assurances that if Cleveland receives any military-style gear, it will decommission the equipment after the convention.

Jane Castor was chief of the Tampa police when the city hosted the 2012 RNC. She said it’s not unusual for a city to buy riot gear before the convention. But she said she didn’t want most officers suited up during the event.

“If you come out with a heavy hand,” Castor said, “then that, to me, personally, says you expect that people are going to disobey the ground rules that everybody agreed to in the first place.”

She says Tampa police and activists groups met before the RNC to come up with those ground rules. So far, the mayor’s office has not offered details on security plans.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.