Think of it as the hangover after an awards celebration. In the aftermath of winning the Republican National Convention, the magnitude of the security preparations has dawned on state and local officials. Estimates of personnel go between 5,000 and 10,000 police officers, while the Twin Cities currently employ 1,400 combined:
Security will be the biggest concern — and the biggest expense — for the convention, with plans for as many as 10,000 officers to be deployed and $50 million to be spent to protect delegates, media and high-profile politicians.
“Everything we do is different after 9/11,” said Rob Allen, a deputy chief with the Minneapolis Police Department. “A Twins playoff game, a Vikings game, a parade, all are different. You can’t turn back the clock on how you do security.”
Although the Twin Cities has attracted larger crowds — such as at the 1992 Super Bowl — it has never held an event with the importance, scrutiny or magnitude of a modern presidential convention. …
This is probably the first time that a national political convention will be held in two cities, and that large geographical footprint will be one of the biggest security challenges of the event.
Obviously, officials in both cities will have to rely on outside help for staffing, while simultaneously providing all of the normal police services to Minnesota residents. Those will likely come from cities and counties from all over the Upper Midwest and perhaps beyond, and we will need every last one of those who volunteer. Boston used 5,000 police for the Democratic National Convention in a city with the same approximate size as Minneapolis and St. Paul, and in the end that number fell somewhat short of optimum. The lack of personnel forced the city to “lock down” venues.
In New York, I can tell you that the police kept a highly visible presence the entire convention. Large numbers of them could be seen at all times throughout the entire area where Madison Square Garden is located. Streets surrounding the venue were shut down and barricaded, and even foot traffic was curtailed. I got stuck at one such point, which turned out to be the high point of my travel day. That kind of security will no doubt get deployed by the Twin Cities, and it is personnel-intensive.
We have hosted high-visibility events before, such as the 1992 Super Bowl, but that was in a different era. National conventions for either party present very attractive terrorist targets, and the presence of the President (whom I assume will attend) makes it even more so. This will be on a much higher scale than 1992 or any of the presidential visits we often get. The cost will be enormous, although the Star-Tribune reports that the federal government will pick up most of the security tab through the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a mighty challenge, and the Twin Cities will have to work with a wide range of police departments and sheriff’s offices in order to meet it.