Wed June 12, 2013
CMPD's DNC Spending Details Revealed
The DNC seems a distant memory, but we're just now getting details of how Charlotte police spent a $50 million grant federal grant for convention security. And, the Department of Justice has released an analysis of CMPD's work during the DNC, which it recommends future convention cities study closely.
The Justice Department report positively glows about how well-prepared CMPD was; how well it worked with other agencies and used the latest technology to pull things off smoothly. The report is being touted as a "planning primer" for local police hosting big events.
"In all honestly I feel good about it," says CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe. "It's something I wish we had going into the DNC – being able to provide a blue print of what went well. What some of the things that people should pay closer attention to."
One thing the report says CMPD really did struggle with was how to house, feed and shuttle around some 4,000 visiting police officers during the DNC.
But Monroe gets high praise for his patience and flexibility in dealing with protesters. The report says that's a major reason there were so few arrests during the DNC - just 25 – all without incident.
"From day one, we made a point we weren't going to draw definitive lines in the sand, everything was gonna be open for discussion," says Monroe.
"I would give obviously credit where credit's due," says community activist Michael Zytkow, who organized demonstrations during the DNC. "But I think we need to praise not only CMPD, but we need to praise the activists that did exactly as they said they would and performed in a peaceful, non-violent manner and ultimately had their voices heard."
Throughout the DNC, police seemed to have an uncanny sense of what demonstrators would do next. Turns out, they had informants infiltrate the protest groups, which the report calls an "invaluable" resource.
Zytkow is disturbed CMPD would go to such lengths when protest groups had pledged to be peaceful during the DNC.
"We've found now that we are starting to piece together who these individuals are that these are individuals who were sort of encouraging us to be more aggressive," says Zytkow.
It was during daily protest marches that the fruits of CMPD's $50 million federal grant were most evident. About half of the money went toward paying police officers before and during the DNC.
Most of the rest bought equipment and supplies like new avionics for police helicopters circled overhead. New police uniforms and riot gear. ATVs outfitted with loud speakers to address large crowds. Hundreds of surveillance cameras beaming footage back to a $4 million high-tech command center at CMPD headquarters. This is all stuff Monroe says would have taken years for the city to acquire.
"Nothing that we purchased during the DNC - other than horse food - will we not be able to use going forward," Monroe adds.
About those horses: CMPD spent $18,000 building, outfitting and cleaning temporary stalls for 23 horses borrowed from Atlanta and Richmond, but the report says mounted patrol was unnecessary for the DNC.
On the other hand, Bart Stettler still sees officers zipping around on the mounts he provided for the DNC: some 300 bicycles.
Stettler's Queen City Bicycles is one of 112 companies in the Charlotte region where CMPD says it spent more than $13 million. $1.8 million bought wireless radios from a local Motorola dealer and another $1.8 million went for police riot gear from a company called Lawmen's.
Johnson C. Smith University got $1.2 million for renting its entire campus and dorms to visiting police officers.
Stettler sold 300 bikes and accessories to CMPD for nearly half a million dollars. It was the largest order he's ever filled, but he couldn't brag about it because DNC security spending was hush-hush.
He would have gladly put a sign in his window touting his shop as the official bike outfitter for CMPD during the DNC, "but the whole point was to get the job done and give them the tools to keep the city safe," says Stettler.
The money made for a good year, though, he adds.
You could say the same for CMPD with all of its new equipment courtesy of the DNC security grant.