Kelly’s grip on the situation is so firm, he has even been accused of trying to micromanage the demonstrations. For the protest this past March, Kelly used the NYPD’s Website to post tips for participating in the rally, like how to get close to the speaker’s platform. It drove some of the protesters nuts (kind of like cutting class with help from your teacher). Nevertheless, the site got several thousand hits.
“We can’t rely on the organizers to get the information out to participants,” Kelly says, indicating that last-minute route changes can cause unnecessary confusion.
The city will spend well in excess of $50 million on security ($25 million of this will come from the federal government). Not surprisingly, the argument has been made that the convention shouldn’t be here because it is an astronomically expensive, over-the-top security nightmare.
To get a sense of the number of moving parts and the synchronization required for the apparatus to work properly, consider a tabletop exercise held two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention. Tabletop exercises, the current vogue in security planning, are realistic drills conducted around a conference table for high-ranking officials who’ll make decisions in a crisis. According to McManus, who participated in the exercise, there was a huge U-shaped table, which served as a sort of mock command center. Seated around the table were representatives of the NYPD, the Fire Department, EMS, the Port Authority police, state troopers, the FBI, the Secret Service, health and hospitals, the FAA, the Transportation Department, the Coast Guard, and dozens of other agencies. There were, in all, 75 government entities represented. And in a crisis, each would have a role to play. “The amount of time and effort we’re dedicating to the convention is unprecedented,” says McManus.
Despite the size of the convention, the NYPD’s organizational chart for the event looks pretty simple. Kelly, of course, is at the top along with his executive committee, which is kind of like his war cabinet. Below him in the hierarchy is the RNC coordinator, and the NYPD’s four key divisions of responsibility: Command and Control, Site Security, Tactical Support, and Operational Support.
It is only when you begin to examine the subcommittees that you get a sense of how complicated the staging actually is. Command and Control, for example, has half a dozen subcommittees. Site Security has seven subcommittees, including one for hotels. Convention delegates are currently slated to stay in 49 different hotels around the city. Threat assessments have been done at each of these buildings, and there will be cops assigned to every one as well. The same essentially applies to all of the convention-related events that will take place away from the Garden. Right now the list of parties, dinners, meetings, concerts, and receptions runs to twenty pages in very small type.
There are subcommittees to handle coordination with VIPs who arrive with their own security details; motorcade planning; a legal team to monitor what the NYPD is doing and give advice; logistics, to make sure the department has whatever supplies it needs; and prisoner processing to handle arrests (there are plans, if necessary, to take prisoners to other boroughs).
From a policing point of view, protest is a more tangible, easier-to-prepare-for challenge than terrorism. In fact, it is, for law enforcement, the antithesis of terror. Protesters operate in the light, not the shadows, and though there is the occasional spontaneous event, most of their activities are planned and scheduled.
For example, the march to kick things off is slated for Sunday, August 29, the day before the convention opens. Though organizers claim it will attract at least 250,000 people, their request for a permit to march up Eighth Avenue and into Central Park for a rally has been denied. Officially, the reason is the Parks commissioner’s concern about damage to the Great Lawn.
“The organizers haven’t come back to us with an alternative route,” Kelly says. “They don’t seem particularly focused on it right now. Maybe it’s because they’re going to court. I don’t know, but the park is not going to happen.”