Thu September 6, 2012
DNC A Boon For CMPD
The DNC has been a test of the Charlotte police department's abilities. But it's also been a lucrative opportunity to score some expensive equipment that will stick around long after the delegates and protesters are gone.
There's all kind of debate about whether the DNC be any real boost to Charlotte's image or economy after it ends.
But one DNC benefit that's here to stay was on display earlier this week when a large group of protesters blocked an intersection. Police used the department's brand new portable PA system to communicate with the crowd.
The city bought that PA with money from a $50 million federal homeland security grant for hosting the DNC. And when the convention's over, CMPD gets to keep its new toys.
"What we've tried to do is enhance everything that we've got," says Deputy Chief Harold Medlock, who led CMPD's preparation for the DNC.
Only a fraction of the $50 million shopping list has been released, but so far we know $2.5 million went toward expanding CMPD's command center. It's been outfitted with giant screens showing live feeds from cameras all over Uptown.
We know more than $1.3 million was spent on bicycles, dirt bikes, Harley Davidson motorcycles and golf-cart sized all-terrain vehicles called "UTVs."
"(They) allow us to get in and around congested areas much more quickly than we could with a car or a pick-up truck," explains Medlock.
The money also bought the new radio headset Medlock is wearing as he watches over an Uptown intersection. It's the kind a rock star would wear on stage, as opposed to the shoulder-mounted radios CMPD has used.
But wait, there's more! The DNC security grant bought new electronics for the police helicopters that have hummed constantly over Uptown, an x-ray machine for scanning suspicious packages, and, of course, the PA system for talking to big, angry crowds.
That's an acquisition that will probably gather some dust after the DNC, since big, angry crowds aren't terribly common in Charlotte.
But it'll still come in handy, says Medlock. For example, if a big storm comes through during a big event like SpeedStreet. That happened a few years ago.
"We had no way to convey to the crowd what was going on," recalls Medlock. "To be able to pull that kind of equipment out and say 'We have a major storm approaching, you need to seek cover,' that is invaluable for crowd safety and crowd control, really."
There are some new goodies Medlock says CMPD won't need after the DNC - for example, all the extra bikes purchased for crowd control. Those, he says, will go to some of the other police departments in the area who sent officers to help out during the convention.