The upper crust of the “public safety community” held a news conference late this afternoon to assure people that there will be enough cops to provide security during the Republican National Convention later this month.
St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington did the talking, saying his department has worked out agreements with 54 other law enforcement agencies in the state to provide help, and he’s still trying to cut deals with 28 others. Cops will be coming from as far away as Duluth (40 cops) and Rochester (up to 20 officers). And, Harrington says, out-of-state law enforcement agencies — from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois — have been “invited” to assist.
But some communities have been concerned they’ll get stuck paying the time-and-a-half rate if St. Paul doesn’t fully reimburse them.
At the last Republican convention — New York City in 2004 — cops complained that they couldn’t see their families, were forced to work double shifts, and had to sleep in the police stations. One police officer guarding the Bunker Hill subway stop in the Charlestown section of Boston During the Democratic convention told me essentially the same thing. Harrington says that won’t happen in St. Paul, at least with the close-to-home cops. “That’s why we want to bring in as many who are local as possible,” he said, “so they can go home and be in that nurturing environment during the week.”
Like Boston, where the Democratic National Convention was held in 2004, St. Paul firefighters will be asked to help out with “traffic control.” In Boston, that was code for “being available at important intersections to hose down protesters if it came to that.”
But Harrington says his department has no information that suggests any “threats” to the convention.
The officials still have not released details on security perimeters and road closings; that will come next week. But Harrington says downtown St. Paul “will be open for business.” You may have to walk to where you’re going, however.
Yards away from Harrington’s news conference, several off-duty members of the St. Paul Police Federation picketed in a dispute over a new contract.
The city has offered a 10-percent pay increase over three years, according to Mayor Chris Coleman. The union says its officers rank 25th in the state, compared to other police departments, even though it has the second-highest crime rate.