CLEVELAND – The city of Cleveland is gearing up for the Republican National Convention in July amid concerns from police departments, police unions and corporations that the Northeast Ohio city is not prepared for potential unrest that may accompany the event.
The Cleveland Police Department will help provide security for the convention. The department is organizing a police force of 5,000 officers to assist with security: 1,200 from the city and the remaining from departments across the state and country.
The Greensboro Police Department in North Carolina committed in October to sending 50 officers to the convention but pulled out of the agreement in May, citing concerns over staffing and logistics, including where the officers would be assigned.
“In recently weeks, I have spoken with police administrators who have experience in planning for an event of this magnitude, and they express a lack of confidence in the city of Cleveland and their preparedness for the RNC,” Greensboro Deputy Chief of Police Brian James wrote in a letter to the Cleveland Police Department.
Corporations – including Ford Motor Co., Wells Fargo & Co., UPS Inc., Motorola Solutions Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Walgreens Boots Alliance – have opted out of sponsoring the convention, according to an article in Bloomberg.
And Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said he spoke with Cleveland police officers and community members who expressed concern over a lack of safety equipment, training and orders for assignments during the convention.
Loomis said he believes there will be injuries at the event because the city is not prepared.
However, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said in a news conference the city is prepared, and there are enough officers available to safely patrol the convention.
Republicans will hold the convention in the lakeside city of about 390,000 from July 18-21 at Quicken Loans Arena. It is classified a National Special Security Event, meaning the Secret Service is the lead agency in developing a security plan for the convention, said Justin Giorgio, a press assistant on the Committee on Arrangements for the convention.
“The Secret Service and their partners are developing a robust plan to keep all 4,372 delegates and alternates, 15,000 media and 50,000 guests safe,” he said.
After a satirical petition calling for the open carry of firearms at the convention gained media attention in May, the Secret Service reaffirmed its weapons policy for the convention.
Because Ohio is an open carry state, anyone who legally owns a gun can carry one in public, and Cleveland is not able to impede on the state’s law.
To conceal a weapon, gun owners need a concealed carry license.
The city controls the “event zone,” which makes up the downtown area, and it can only ban weapons like knives and swords.
However, guns will not be allowed inside the convention or the “secure zone,” a yet-unannounced perimeter regulated by the Secret Service encompassing the arena and surrounding areas.
Only law enforcement personnel can carry firearms in the “secure zone,” Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said in a statement.
Giorgio said the convention will defer to the Secret Service’s judgement on safety and security issues.
In a city scarred by controversial police shootings and simmering racial tensions, protests are expected from the Ohio NAACP, among other groups, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
Groups filing protest permits with the city include Stand Together Against Trump, Organize Ohio and the People’s Fightback Center/March Against Racism.
The Cleveland Police Department received $50 million in federal grants in December. The city used $20 million to purchase more than 2,000 riot-control gear sets, including riot-control suits and collapsible batons.
However, Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said in a news conference officers will not wear this gear unless it becomes necessary to control crowds.
Tomba said the remaining $30 million grant funding is expected to go toward personnel expenses.
In addition to the security concerns, the city is also facing financial issues.
The city still has about $6.5 million left to raise before the convention starts, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee has raised $57.5 million of the city’s $64 million goal.
Cleveland has previously hosted the Republican convention twice, in 1924 and 1936.
Emily Mills is a David Dix fellow. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyMills818.