CLEVELAND – When Republicans held their 2008 national convention in Minneapolis, demonstrators ran through the streets smashing windows and dumping trash cans.
Similarly rowdy protests already are following presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump wherever he goes – but will Cleveland, the site of this year’s convention and a city already reeling from racially charged police-shooting cases, be ready?
Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, says they’re not yet.
“I don’t think that we’re anywhere we need to be for it,” Loomis said.
He warned that 2,000 riot suits were ordered late. And cops were not measured until after the order was placed. Meanwhile, bikes for mounted patrols have not arrived -- and Loomis says there is not adequate time to train with the gear.
“You have to be proficient in being able to use this stuff and right now, we're not,” he said. “We don't even have gas masks at this point."
But City Councilman Matt Zone, chairman of the city’s public safety committee, pushed back – saying Loomis is just complaining because the job of police union boss is to demand more resources, pay and training.
"We've been practicing and exercising since the fall of last year,” Zone said.
He said they have had extensive preparation and coordination with the many law enforcement agencies that will converge in Cleveland in July. Much of that preparation has not yet filtered down to the rank-and-file officers.
“I believe at the end of the day, people are going to look back at this convention and say, job well done, Cleveland," he said.
Meanwhile, the local business community is watching and waiting.
Mike Rubin, who owns Prospect Music in downtown Cleveland, said he’d have more confidence with police preparations if there were better communication.
“They have not told us enough. I don’t know enough to be confident,” he said.
Dan Bir, the owner of Otto Moser’s restaurant in downtown, said city police protected businesses through demonstrations following the Michael Brelo and Tamir Rice police-shooting cases and their aftermath.
“They’ll do all right. We’ll be fine,” he said.
Rodney Monroe, former chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department who handled security for the Democratic convention in 2012, said the timing of the arrival of the gear is not terribly important. The training is.
“It’s important to have begun the training and started the training and hopefully, the equipment once it arrives, it can be deployed accordingly,” Monroe said.
There already are strong indications police will have their hands full during the convention.
An organization calling itself ‘Dump Trump’ has already applied for permits to march in Cleveland during the convention. A spokesman promises: if the permit is denied, they’ll march anyway.