CMPD Receives Training for Democrat Convention

From The Charlotte Observer of August 15, 2011 by Franco Ordonez

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin training exercises today with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers in preparation for the Democratic National Convention, federal officials said.

The three-day course will be offered by the agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness. Officials would not discuss specifics, but agency spokesman Derek Jensen said the training is paid for by the federal agency and involves a mix of classroom work and on-the-ground instruction.

Preparations for providing security for President Barack Obama and the 35,000 delegates and visitors who will converge on Charlotte next year for the Democratic National Convention kicked up a notch in the last several weeks.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has also begun the process of lining up police partners.

On Wednesday, Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said he got a letter from CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe requesting assistance. The request included dates officers will be needed, their expected duties and necessary equipment. Not every department has received a letter, but police officials in Greensboro, Concord and Monroe said they have also agreed to help.

The Charlotte police force is expected to roughly double in size by adding an estimated 2,400 to 3,400 officers for the four-day extravaganza that begins Sept. 3, 2012. These officers will be called upon to help handle any scenario, from a terrorist attack to a disorderly delegate.

“We’re going to give them every single available person we have,” said Chief Debra Duncan of the Monroe Police Department.

Chief Monroe declined to speak with the Observer. Department spokesman Robert Tufano said he could not discuss specific resources or methods for security reasons, but the goal is to work with multiple agencies to develop “a seamless security plan that will create a secure environment” for the dignitaries, participants and the general public.

“There is a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in the areas of venue security, air space security, training, communications and credentialing,” Tufano said.

Guidelines written by the Department of Justice recommend local law enforcement begin planning 12 to 18 months prior to the event. Police should, among other things, begin coordinating resources with federal and local law enforcement agencies, addressing any legal issues, and complete any necessary partnership agreements.

Some 57 law enforcement agencies were called on to assist at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo., said Lt. Matthew Murray of the Denver Police Department. Denver authorities had set up a detainee processing center at an old city warehouse expecting an onslaught of arrests, but in the end made only 152.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials have not announced any plans for creating a special jail for the convention. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey said this summer that those arrested at the convention could end up being processed at the Jail Annex in north Charlotte. Anyone who makes bail would be released 10 miles away from the center of convention activities. Bailey said the distance would allow for “a cooling-off period.”

Coordination, particularly setting clear “rules of engagements” is paramount to a successful event, Murray said. The Charlotte force will be measured by the actions of every officer regardless of where they came from, he said.

The officers from all over Colorado conducted thousands of hours of training together to develop a common set of marching orders, lines of communication – and just to learn one another’s names.

“This is a dangerous situation,” Murray said. “I need to know that you have my back and you need to know I have your back. We have to establish this camaraderie ahead of time.”

The additional costs to bring in these officers is expected to be paid for by federal convention funds through the Department of Justice, established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In 2008, Congress appropriated $100 million to reimburse state and local law enforcement at the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions in Denver and Minneapolis, respectively.

Last month, Mayor Anthony Foxx traveled to Washington, D.C., with the mayor of Tampa, which is hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention, to ask Congress for $55 million each in security funds.

Members of the Hickory Police Department have already begun special training exercises.

In June, members of the department’s special operations team took part in a three-day VIP Training led at Catawba Valley Community College’s Law Enforcement Training Program.

On the final day of the training, officers conducted an exercise on how to escort a dignitary to an event.

Carrying assault rifles and traveling in a three-vehicle motorcade, the officers practiced escorting a dignitary into and out of Hickory High School.

Adkins said he didn’t expect his officers would be protecting dignitaries at the convention, but said the simulation would help his officers back Secret Service agents who will be leading that part of the process.

Charlotte could also get some assistance from South Carolina, Virginia or other states. State Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat, introduced a bill that was passed this spring allowing out-of-state officers to assist with large conventions.

Police officials in Atlanta said they do not currently have plans to send officers to the convention, but said any requests would be considered. Gaston police said they have not been officially called, but are also available to help if needed.

Chief Duncan in Monroe said she expects Charlotte to come up with a detailed operations plan coordinating the work and responsibilities for every officer.

“You can’t just bring in thousands of officers from all over the state and send them out there and say ‘go serve and protect,’ ” she said. “There has to be structure.”

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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