LAPD Hopes for Best at Democrat Convention While Preparing for Worst

July 7, 2008 - 8:26 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Los Angeles police are ready for the worst, a media spokesperson said, explaining what preparations the force has taken in anticipation of the slew of activists promising to converge upon the Democratic National Convention next week.

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Horace Frank - the officer in charge of media relations - said an estimated 30 different local, state and federal organizations have been tapped since April of 1999 to undergo training courses in areas ranging from crowd control to enforcement tactics to public relations. Special attention, he said, was given to the topic of constitutional rights, in order that activists' rights to free, peaceful assembly would not be infringed.

"The [planning] endeavor was basically a multi-agency endeavor, involving about 30 entities, both law enforcement and non law enforcement," Frank said. "Some of those agencies, for example, are the US Secret Service, the FBI, the California Highway Patrol, and the LA County Sheriff's Department. Our personnel have received a minimum of 16 hours of training each. That's the minimum."

Roughly 2,000 officers will concentrate their security efforts on the convention site and surrounding areas, Frank said, with the usual number of police working their normal patrols in the outlying areas of the downtown event.

"The way we can do this is, in April, we disallowed any vacation during the DNC," Frank said. "Just to give you an idea what that means, we have about 20 percent of our force on vacation on any given moment."

Law enforcement officers from various agencies were sent to Seattle and Philadelphia, to observe and critique tactics used on demonstrators. Hopefully, Frank said, the analyses have paid off, and all preparedness exercises to combat the worst case scenarios will have been for naught. In case violence does become reality, however, 3,000 National Guard soldiers will be on call to assist.

"I can't say we welcome their presence," Frank said, accentuating the word welcome, "because if they're there, that would mean things had gotten so bad we need them. But in the event of an emergency, they are on hand."

Activist organizations planning to participate in the weeklong event include the Ruckus Society and D2KLA, both of which have posted detailed demonstration schedules on their Internet sites.

Members plan to march and convene in opposition to a wide variety of issues, from corporate greed and racial injustice to police brutality and discrimination against immigrants. D2KLA, for instance, plans Tuesday to demonstrate on at least four separate issues - "Stop Police Brutality," the "Prison Industrial Complex," the "Death Penalty," and the "Criminalization of Our Communities - From Youth to Seniors."

Ruckus Society members - professionally trained in the art of activism - are already irate with law enforcement for treatment received at the Republican National Convention, during which, according to their Internet site, "over 450 ... non-violent activists were arrested and are now being held in two jail locations in Philadelphia."

During demonstrations, the Ruckus Society site continued, "activists ... were confronted with police brutality and intimidation, many of the same tactics the police commonly use against people of color [and] poor and working class communities."

Philadelphia police have told the story differently, reporting some demonstrators were guilty of destroying property and assaulting officers.

Frank said Los Angeles police always maintain a "zero tolerance" for crime, but would adapt their reactions to potentially violent or out-of-control situations to "the individual" circumstance.

"I'm not going to say whether it's going to be chaotic or not," Frank said, "but we have to be realistic. We have a responsibility to protect the people of this community, and as such, we were looking at a worst-case scenario. When it comes to a lot of these anarchist groups, a lot are located here, so it makes sense you'd see a lot more here. So we have to caution people ... but we've been preparing for a while."