RNC security director Al Concordia on planning for the Republican convention
TAMPA, Fla.—Tampa is a regular locale for major sporting events that draw huge crowds, but Maj. Brian Dugan of the Tampa Police Department said that the Republican National Convention “is the largest event and the highest security event we’ve ever had.”
The convention was scheduled to begin Aug. 27, but was delayed because of Hurricane Isaac. It was expected to get underway with an abridged schedule yesterday afternoon and run through Thursday, Aug. 30
The weather delay was just another detail for the security team to finesse for an event that involved the collaboration of many different entities.
Local law enforcement agencies, working under the auspices of the Secret Service, will collaborate with federal agencies to provide security at the event which is taking place here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The event has been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE) by the Department of Homeland Security.
That means the Secret Service is in charge of overall security at the convention, and will work in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and private consultants such as Al Concordia, who was hired by the Committee on Arrangements, a subcommittee of the Republican National Committee, to be security director at the event.
A National Special Security Event has specific qualifications.
“The basic determining factors are based on intelligence, size, scope and media attention,” Concordia said. “If it is a significant national domestic event, it qualifies as an NSSE.”
The NSSE designation originated in 1999 in the wake of the turbulent World Trade Center protests that year in Seattle. Under a directive from President Clinton, the Secret Service became the lead agency in high-security national events. Congressional funding followed soon thereafter. Concordia said $50 million was earmarked for this year’s RNC.
“That money is earmarked specifically for local jurisdictions,” Concordia said. “The primary agency responsible for the allocation of those funds is the Tampa Police Department.”
In preparation for the event, the Tampa Police Department hired and trained thousands of additional police officers from about 60 different communities in Florida.
Local law enforcement —including officers hired from elsewhere—will spearhead security efforts outside the venue, where thousands of protesters are expected to assemble. Based on estimates gleaned from past conventions, Dugan of the Tampa Police Department said as many as 15,000 protesters could descend on the city.
The past few RNCs, most recently the 2008 convention in St. Paul, have been a magnet for protesters. While most have lawfully dissented, there have been instances of disorderly behavior. Authorities in Tampa hope to mitigate that risk.
“We’ve set up a parade route and viewing area where protesters can hold their demonstrations,” Major Dugan said. “The entire city is open for people to get their message across, but we’ve given them specific areas to go to provide a more safe and secure environment.”