The ACLU agrees. “To me, that looks like the cops can search your backpack for any reason,” Katy Parker, legal director of the ACLU in North Carolina, told the Charlotte Observer. “If you have no standards, it risks racial profiling, or other profiling.”
Tampa’s security plan has its own contingencies for the expected 10,000-15,000 protesters that they anticipate showing up at the convention. Hamlin said they will designate “protest areas for free speech,” which will have to be approved by the Secret Service.
Both the DNC and RNC convention planning committees deferred TPM’s questions about convention security to the Secret Service, which they said was in charge of coordinating the plans with local law enforcement. The Secret Service would not speak directly to specific security measures it is planning for each city. “We work diligently with all of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners as well as the community to provide a safe environment,” said George Ogilvie, a spokesman for the Secret Service.
Tampa and Charlotte are just the latest cities to feel the influx of convention cash, which leaves an imprint long after the delegates pack up shop. Denver and St. Paul, which respectively hosted the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2008, were also treated to the $50 million federal grant to beef up their own security.
Denver used some of its money to purchase “non-lethal” weapons, like 88 guns that could fire pepper balls or “glass breaking” projectiles for a range of 100 meters. They also installed 20 surveillance cameras around the city as part of a High Activity Location Observation (H.A.L.O.) program. Though the city denied the ACLU’s public records’ requests, the Denver Post reported at the time that it had paid $1 million in grant money for wireless security cameras and to buy a SWAT vehicle.
Denver’s caginess about its security plans resulted in a lawsuit by the ACLU in May of 2008. In July of that year, the city released a vague list of the expenditures as part of an agreement with the ACLU. The list included $6 million for “Non Department of Safety Purchases,” $1 million for “Other Misc Equipment” and $2.1 million for “Personal Protection Equipment,” and $500k for equipment geared for making mass arrests, the Denver Post reported.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (sub. req.), records released by St. Paul revealed that the bulk of the federal grant money went toward bringing in outside police personnel, much like in Tampa. But law enforcement also spent $2.1 million to implement a wireless surveillance system throughout the city that it kept in place after the convention.
The St. Paul Police Foundation also donated (sub. req. ) $500,000, which, coupled with the federal money, helped the city purchase 93 closed-circuit cameras in addition to the 92 cameras already in place.
St. Paul also used the federal grant money to purchase a “new mobile command vehicle” for $560,000, $612,000 for radios, $900,000 for fencing and metal detectors and $1.9 million worth of “chemical irritant.”