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Something Else: Impressive police presence led to safe streets in Cleveland

by Eric Marotta | Editor Published: July 27, 2016 12:00 AM

It was hot in downtown Cleveland during the Republican National Convention July 18-21, and the first traffic I heard on the police scanner included calls for water and other cold beverages for police officers working their shifts. Police were very, very busy, and I was impressed by the range of situations they were forced to deal with and with the professional manner they got the job done.

All in all, it seems things went down without too many problems, with only a handful of arrests and only minor injuries reported.

Summit County Sheriff's Deputy Wes Dobbins said he and a contingent of a couple dozen deputies were on hand to support Cleveland police. Around 2,800 officers from around the country helped out.

"I had concerns -- I thought 'This could get really ugly,'" Dobbins told me after his tour of duty.

He said he heard reports police were finding bags of rocks and excrement that were being hidden in the downtown area around the Quicken Loans Arena at night, with individuals attempting to retrieve them during the day.

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He confirmed one report I had heard on the radio -- that a woman had been observed with a stash of rocks in a baby stroller.

Observations of suspicious individuals -- those carrying large bags or weapons, suspected protest ringleaders, to name a few -- were being made by officers on the ground, from helicopters, inside high-rise buildings and by snipers stationed on rooftops, Dobbins said.

Fortunately, the combined police departments' massive show of force precluded any trouble.

Dobbins said that in addition to the Summit County deputies, and the Cleveland Police bicycle and mounted officers, there were other groups of police stationed at locations throughout downtown.

"Any time anything looked like it was going to get out of hand, 100 cops from all over the country were there. It was amazing," he said.

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It sounded amazing.

As the days went by, I would hear officers report finding hidden caches of projectiles in back alleys and isolated corners in the downtown area.

If an abandoned backpack or other bag was noticed, the area would be cordoned off and the bag searched. If someone spent too long in a portable toilet, police wanted to make sure the individual wasn't gathering ammunition.

Late one night, police watched an individual carry about a dozen 5-gallon buckets onto a rooftop. The next day, police attempted to track down a key to the building so the buckets could be inspected. I didn't hear what they found.

The same evening, police say a car broke down on Interstate 90 in front of Browns Stadium. A police officer on his way home stopped and checked the man to make sure nothing nefarious was going on.

Individuals carrying everything from AK-47-style rifles, hip-holstered pistols and other firearms would be approached, and monitored by police -- all while protest groups with opposing viewpoints clashed in and around Public Square.

Now and again, officers would call for platoons of bicycle police, mounted units, or squads such as Dobbins' group of deputies to assist in forming a wall between those opposing groups. One night, a group of anarchists led police on a walk eastward through downtown after they had been given an order to disperse.

On the last day, a more disturbing report came in: A Georgia state trooper had come in for medical attention after someone "poured" something on his arm and his hand went numb, according to the dispatcher.

The initial report led to the addition of syringes to the long list of items prohibited in the downtown area.

Two other officers were treated for some sort of skin irritation they received after contacting protesters, according to dispatchers and messages on social media from Cleveland police. Cleveland police said syringes had not been reported to have caused any injuries, but they are investigating some stickers that were being distributed by an individual who was taken into custody and questioned.

Thus far, I haven't seen any reports on whether he was charged or whether police determined exactly what happened.

Tennis balls had also been on the prohibited items list, and police were dispatched to confront at least one individual who had a bag full of them and was handing them out.

That was the one time they sounded amused.

The rest of the time, it was strictly business.

Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433

emarotta@recordpub.com

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