Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mary Mulhern praised TPD for its work at RNC, but not for the heavy security

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 8:18 AM

Mary Mulhern
  • Mary Mulhern
Earlier this year while the Tampa City Council was approving requests from the Tampa Police Department regarding high security at the RNC, one city council member thought it was too much.

"We spent $25 million (on equipment) and made two arrests. I think that says it all," said Mary Mulhern on Wednesday afternoon.

Part of that low number was due to the de-escalation techniques employed by the TPD and the other law enforcement agencies under its control. But a bigger factor was the small number of activists who demonstrated. Though estimates of 15,000 protesters appeared inflated, nobody predicted that only 2,000 activists would attend.

Mulhern said the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac genuinely prevented activists making it to Tampa, but she maintained that the "overwhelming force" Mayor Bob Buckhorn proudly said was employed for the convention, undoubtedly stopped others from making the journey.

"We heard so much about how there were going to be so many protesters, and we kept hearing about anarchists and mayhem, and that may have dissuaded some violent people from coming down, but who knows?"

She admitted that the "violent" element would have only been a tiny percentage of demonstrators; but she said the mood created in the city was chilling, as she predicted months ago (something that Mayor Buckhorn is proud of).

However, the council woman was effusive in praising the Tampa Police Department, in particular Assistant Chief John Bennett.

"He has been from the beginning the one person whose been speaking really rationally and peacefully and intelligently about crowd control and about how to handle it," said Mulhern, adding that other officials she spoke with ranging from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department to the FBI spoke darkly about what might ensue during the convention.

"He was just awesome, and Chief Castor too. The two of them, with the tone they set, it was great and so I can’t say enough good things about them," she said.

Mulhern called the federal government's allowing of $100 million to be spent on the security at the two political conventions a "boondoggle for defense contractors" (the contractors being the ones who make the equipment purchased for security). Tampa's $50 million grant was broken in half, with $25 million going toward technology and $25 million taking care of the 3,000 law enforcement officers who came from out of town.

The council woman said the heavy downtown Tampa security that included high fences protecting government buildings and other areas in the city was "overkill," and "really hurt the view of Tampa" because people couldn't get around downtown to observe its natural beauty.

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