Coming to Cleveland

      MFS-CLEVELAND.jpg

      Coming to Cleveland

      Republicans and Democrats finally have presumptive nominees and are headed towards their summer conventions. For Democrats with Bernie Sanders still in the race, there could still be fireworks inside the convention center in Philadelphia.

      For the GOP, the action may be outside the convention in Cleveland where the Republican National Convention is being held next month. Some violent protests have followed Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Full Measure correspondent Lisa Fletcher went to Cleveland to see if the city is ready for the political rumble.

      Two years ago when the City of Cleveland bid, and won, the right to host the RNC Convention, it had no way of knowing that this level of violence [is what some of today's GOP rallies would look like.

      Next month, The LeBron James posters will come down and the GOP banners rise, as the Quicken Loans Arena will be transformed. Donald Trump and thousands of GOP luminaries and delegates will flood into this highly-secured zone.

      Lisa Fletcher: We are at Quicken Loans arena where the RNC is going to be. What's it going to be like with 50,000 people here?

      Steve Loomis: It's going to be crazy busy, crazy busy.

      This area inside and surrounding the arena will be closely guarded by Secret Service. It's the area outside the zone that keeps Steve Loomis, the President of the Police Patrolmen's Association, up at night.

      Loomis: You know, I would love to be able to tell you guys that we're in a good place right now, and that we're ready for this. And I can't, I can't.

      Loomis' union represents 1,400 Cleveland "rank and file" officers, 600 of whom will be on convention duty manning checkpoints, monitoring traffic, and trying to keep a lid on violence.

      Fletcher: Are you afraid you're guys are going to get hurt?

      Loomis: Yea, there's definitely going to be guys that are going to get hurt. But the city has a responsibility and a duty to make us as safe as possible by providing us the gear that we need to do the job, the training we need to do the job, and the numbers we need to do the job.

      Loomis says with just five weeks to go, "rank and file" officers feel unprepared. He says the city has failed to communicate logistics, and has provided very little specialized training.

      Loomis: We have 600 police officers, 500 of them haven't been through one minute of training after the three-day FEMA course they went through last year. Not one day.

      FEMA is the "Federal Emergency Management Agency." It provides on-site training to cities hosting national security events.

      Loomis: I'm concerned when I have FEMA instructors telling me personally that they have never been to a city that has been so non-responsive to their recommendations as the City of Cleveland.

      Both the Cleveland Mayor and the Chief of Police declined our request for an interview. At this recent press conference, Police Chief Calvin Williams insisted the city is in good shape.

      Calvin Williams: So we are prepared, we are ready. And our partners are out there prepared and ready. There are going to be officers and individuals and things that you will never see, but they'll be here making sure this city is safe.

      Matt Zone is a City Councilman who has been overseeing the preparations

      Matt Zone: Some of the stuff that is happening behind the scenes, the rank and file officers, they're not even aware of.

      Fletcher: Enlighten me a little bit on what's going on behind the scenes, because I think these officers would too like to be enlightened, because they feel like, "We are not prepared yet, we haven't seen the gear, we haven't had the training."

      Zone: FEMA, which is an elite entity of the federal government that does massive training around issues, they've been in our city for over nine months. So there's been extensive training that's been happening with not only certain leadership of the Cleveland Police Department but our county sheriffs, the National Guard, our State Troopers, and many jurisdictions throughout northeast Ohio.

      Fletcher: Now, Cleveland P.D. tells us they've had three days of training with FEMA, and that's it.

      Zone: So, did you hear that from FEMA, or did you hear that from the Police Union?

      Fletcher: The Union.

      Zone: See, of course. Now you're only getting one perspective.

      We contacted FEMA, and they confirmed they provided a three-day course for the Cleveland Police Department, and a one-day executive course for the city managers. Hardly the "nine months" as the Councilman claimed.

      FEMA declined to comment on the preparedness of the city, stating, "We are in no position to offer official recommendations or guidance to the City of Cleveland or Cleveland Police Department, and have not done so."

      Loomis: You know, police departments from all over the country are backing out of this thing right now in large scale.

      Milwaukee, Denver, Cincinnati, and Greensboro, North Carolina all had originally pledged manpower, but are now pulling out.

      Fletcher: Why are these police agencies that had been committed, in some cases for months, Greensboro had been committed since October, why are they now pulling out?

      Matt Zone: You know, I've heard stories that they are concerned about depleting their rank and file in their hometowns. I'm not privy to the Greensboro situation.

      It wasn't a privileged conversation.

      In fact, in a widely publicized letter, the Greensboro Deputy Police Chief cites conversations with other police administrators, "Who expressed a lack of confidence in the City of Cleveland and their preparedness for the RNC," and noted that, "We have a responsibility to ensure that we are sending our officers to an event that is well planned."

      Chicago in 1968 was a historical example of how things can go wrong when police, protesters, and political turbulence come together.

      Across the country this year, protests at Trump rallies are a clear prediction of what Cleveland is likely to face.

      Zone: Let's face it, most of these police officers, they're gonna be just shepherding and ushering crowds in.

      Fletcher: True, but you don't know which officers are going to be confronted by violent protestors in any part of the city.

      Zone: Sure, but we're going to have such mobility throughout our city, where our police officers are going to be able to move not only on bike, and foot, and horse but also be enabled to set up motorcades that will just roll through the city.

      While most of the city's 300 mountain bikes have arrived for the Cleveland Police Cycle Squads, as well as upper body protection, officers we talked to say much of the other equipment they're expecting, like ballistic helmets, vest, and emergency transport vehicles, are yet to be seen.

      Fletcher: But why the photo finish? The city has known for two years that the RNC is coming here, why wait until the last two or three months to really get the ball rolling?

      Zone: I mean, that is certain people's opinions. What is happening here in Cleveland is happening in Philly as well. There are different-

      Fletcher: Philly's had their equipment for seven months-

      Zone: No, no, no, no, no, not all their equipment.

      Full Measure contacted the Philadelphia Police Department, and with the exception of sophisticated radio equipment that is still on order, its union president told us they are flush with gear, and have been training on it daily in preparation for the DNC.

      Civil Rights Attorney Jacqueline Greene has been critical of Cleveland Police and says more training is exactly what they need.

      Jacqueline Greene: We have a police department that has been found to have previously engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutionally use of excessive force.

      Force so excessive the city is currently under federal oversight.

      According to a 2014 Department of Justice report, the Cleveland Police "Use unnecessary and unreasonable force, at a significant rate, and in a manner that is extremely dangerous to officers, victims of crimes, and innocent bystanders.

      The review also found inappropriate use of Tasers and pepper spray.

      Fletcher: Are you concerned that the previous lack of restraint that has been demonstrated is going to show itself during the protest of the RNC?

      Greene: Yes, we are concerned about that. We're concerned not only because of the reputation of Cleveland Division Police themselves, but also because there are other law enforcement agencies that are brought in to assist.

      Fletcher: Are you concerned about the reputation that's been laid on the Cleveland Police Department going into something as potentially volatile as the RNC?

      Loomis: Sure. We're always concerned about reputation, but we'd ask people to look at the facts.

      As for the protestors, Loomis says their actions will dictate how this convention plays out.

      Loomis: Speak your mind, do whatever it is that you're going to do for protesting, don't throw a rock at my guys. Don't break a window. Don't burn a car. That just brings a negative light to whatever you're trying to sell, and everything will be fine.

      Zone: We have a very good police department and I'm proud of them. They work very hard every single day, and so I know that they're going to be up for the task. This convention is going to come and go, and people are going to look back and say, you know Cleveland? Job well done.

      To complicate things even more, because the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals, and Game 6 is in the same arena as the convention, they are going to lose about two weeks out of the six weeks prep-time that the RNC usually has.