CLEVELAND, Ohio — The events overnight in Dallas, where five police officers were killed in a sniper attack, are sure to stoke anxiety in Clevelanders as the city prepares to host the Republican National Convention in a little more than a week.
The Dallas police were targeted while they monitored a protest, where demonstrators marched over two incidents — one in Louisiana, and one in Minnesota — in which black men were shot and killed by police officers earlier this week. A suspect, who died after a standoff with police, said he wanted to kill white people, and especially white police officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters Friday, according to CNN and other media outlets.
It’s unclear how this week’s events may affect the tone of demonstrations expected to take place here the week of the Republican National Convention, scheduled for July 18-21. Leaders with the Black Lives Matter movement, which is expected to have a presence in Cleveland, have condemned the Dallas shootings.
As we’ve said before, the GOP convention will put months of planning by local, state and federal law-enforcement officials to the test.
Officials are preparing for a significant number of protesters in Cleveland during the convention. While the exact figure is unknown, we can deduce that police are preparing for the possibility of mass arrests numbering in the thousands.
City Councilman Matt Zone, chair of council’s public safety committee, said the Dallas shooting will be on the mind of law enforcement and the greater community during the GOP convention. He hopes it will not put people on edge as to prevent people’s rights to peacefully protest.
“It’s definitely going to have an effect on Cleveland. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Local and federal officials have repeatedly stated they will be ready for the Republican National Convention, and have said they’ve spent months preparing their security plans. Police have deliberately avoided sharing detailed information about their preparations for the GOP convention. But here’s some of what we know.
Around the time of the GOP convention, streets and at times, highways, will be closed, concrete and metal barriers will be set up and police are expected to have a visible presence Downtown and throughout the city.
Residents have grumbled about how the changes will inconvenience them, but local and federal law-enforcement officials said they tried to strike a balance between keeping downtown open for business while also keeping it safe.
Following last month’s mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a counterterrorism expert told cleveland.com that tactics as simple as increasing the numbers of officers can calm the nerves of people who worry about safety.
“Nothing says you’re serious like a good old-fashioned physical deterrence presence,” Roger Cressey, a former adviser to the White House who now works at a Washington, D.C.-based security consulting firm, said at the time.
Tom Lekan, a Cleveland-based security consultant, said on Friday that incidents like what happened in Dallas always result in an uptick in public concern. But he said the GOP convention will feature a heavy, well coordinated police presence, along with increased private security.
“It seems to me, if you’re a bad guy or bad girl, you’re going to think twice about your own safety if you’re going to pull something, basically because no matter which way you turn you’re going to see somebody that is basically involved in the RNC,” he said.
Among the agencies that will be assisting with the Republican National Convention include the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service and the Ohio National Guard. Police have been spotted on rooftops during recent high-profile downtown events — such as the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade — and are expected to do the same during the GOP convention.
While we don’t know specific numbers, police officials have said they have worked to recruit thousands of officers to work for the event.
Police Chief Calvin Williams in a message posted on Facebook this week described the city’s preparations:
The City of Cleveland is just over a week away from the beginning festivities of the 2016 Republican National Convention. This event will put Cleveland in the national spotlight, as did the Cleveland Cavaliers parade just a short time ago. The time is upon us once again to showcase Cleveland and what we, as a community, are all about.
Throughout the course of planning for the RNC, our officers have undergone hours of training relative to many subjects. Although not all training can be discussed or demonstrated as law enforcement tactics are sensitive, the training has been both comprehensive and valuable.
Equipment has been purchased and much of it has been received and distributed to our members. For instance, the Division of Police purchased 300 bicycles which are outfitted specifically for law enforcement purposes. Many of our officers have received training through the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association, making them certified riders. The purchase of this fleet of bicycles will also allow the Division to expand the bicycle unit throughout the city during future patrols and events well after the RNC.
Not all Cleveland Police Officers will participate in activities directly relative to the Republican National Convention. Approximately 1/3 of the members of the Division of Police will be assigned to RNC duties during the course of the event. The remaining members will continue to fully staff the five (5) neighborhood districts and all specialized units during the week of the RNC.
The City of Cleveland, Division of Police has partnered with law enforcement agencies throughout the country to ensure that we have an adequate number of law enforcement officers to staff the needs of the convention. Our officers have trained with many partnering agencies at the local, state and federal level to ensure that the highest safety standards are maintained. We are thankful to our law enforcement partners for their generous support.
I would like to take this time to thank the men and women of the Cleveland Division of Police for your continued commitment to the safety and security of the citizens of and visitors to the City of Cleveland. Your dedication to training and to this job is commendable. I ask that throughout the course of the event, that you remain committed to the well-being of one another as days will be long and the work will be challenging. We will work well as a team and with our partners, as we always do.
This is an exciting time for our great city. This is an historic event and another in the line of recent and we believe future large scale events. I am looking forward to a safe event and I thank you for your support.