Friday, July 18, 2008

MINNESOTA CAN'T FIND ENOUGH COPS FOR GOP CONVENTION

Paul Demko, Minnesota Independent According to official estimates, the Republican National Convention security force that will patrol the streets from September 1-4 requires the services of 3,000-4,000 Minnesota cops, but budgetary and legal issues are keeping a significant number of police organizations from signing on.

Representatives of the city and police department have denied that there was any problem in building a multi-agency force to patrol during the convention, but in surveying and interviewing employees of a number of municipal and county police agencies, the Minnesota Independent has learned that many have not yet formalized their commitment to send officers, and some plan not to send any for legal liability reasons. . .

Rumors that the city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Police Department were having problems completing so-called “joint powers agreements” with other cop shops to supply needed bodies on the street during the convention have circulated in police and legal circles for some time. “It appears things are moving at your typical bureaucratic pace,” says Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation. “We wish this stuff would have been done eight months ago. But we believe the department will acquire enough officers so that everybody -- the cops, the protesters and the citizens -- can all be safe.”. . .

St. Paul has been allocated $50 million in federal funding to cover security costs, a sum that will be used mainly to purchase para-military equipment -- from riot gear to weaponry and vehicles -- and to pay cops. Denver officials have indicated they might spend up to half their $50 million Democratic convention allotment on hardware. In St. Paul, Walsh tells MnIndy, the plan is to spend roughly $33 million on personnel.

Here's the hang-up: The U.S. Department of Justice must green-light exactly how the money will be spent. And despite repeated claims by St. Paul city officials that federal approval is imminent, the Justice Department has not yet acted. "That's what we're waiting for," says Vague. "Every city's going through this. I know that we can send the cops. We're cool with that."

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