Cleveland says it's well-prepared to host GOP convention

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 3:45 PM

CLEVELAND (AP) — City officials on Tuesday insisted that they're prepared to provide the security and medical care needed to keep people safe during the Republican National Convention in July.

Last week, police in Greensboro, North Carolina, rescinded an offer to send 50 police officers to Cleveland during the convention because of concerns about the city's preparedness to host an event that is expected to draw as many as 50,000 people.

Officials in Cleveland spent about 90 minutes Tuesday briefing reporters about the city's security preparations. Police Chief Calvin Williams said the number of police officers working outside the "hard" security zone surrounding the convention venue, Quicken Loans Arena, would be "in the thousands."

Mayor Frank Jackson said Cleveland officials have visited every city that has hosted a national political convention since 2004 to learn about best practices for security.

"We are prepared," Jackson said. "We have done our diligence in many different ways."

Greensboro police, in deciding not to send officers, also cited concerns that its officers wouldn't be covered by worker's compensation insurance. Assistant Cleveland law director Richard Horvath told reporters that Ohio doesn't allow for that kind of coverage for out-of-state workers and that the provision was included in agreements sent to police departments solicited to provide officers.

The convention in Cleveland could be the most tumultuous in decades thanks to the polarizing presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Earlier in the primary campaign, Trump predicted there would be riots in Cleveland if the Republican Party tried to take the nomination away from him. There are no indications that will happen, yet groups that support Trump and groups that oppose him are planning to stage rallies and marches during the convention and have expressed concerns about potential trouble.

Cleveland officials on Tuesday repeated earlier statements that anyone who wants to protest lawfully will be allowed to do so, but others will be punished.

"We're not going to stand for lawlessness," Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said. "If anybody goes sideways and doesn't follow the law, there will be consequences."

Tomba added that officers working in the event zone that includes downtown Cleveland won't wear riot gear unless it becomes necessary. Cleveland has ordered 2,000 sets of personal protection equipment and the same number of collapsible batons paid for with a $50 million federal security grant.

Cleveland is working with Cuyahoga County, a neighboring county and, if needed, the state prison system, to provide enough jail beds should there be mass arrests.

The city is also working with its three largest hospital systems to provide medical care during the convention, officials said Tuesday.