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In August heat, Tampa wants GOP convention police wearing cotton, not polyester

TAMPA — In the heat and swampy humidity of late August, working outside the Republican National Convention would be a sweltering ordeal for Tampa police wearing their standard midnight-blue polyester uniforms.

So city staffers want them in something lighter and more comfortable.

The Tampa City Council will be asked Thursday to approve spending $516,200 to buy uniforms for a coalition of about 2,000 officers working convention security.

The shirts and pants would be khaki tan. The fabric, mercifully, would be cotton.

"This is the hottest time of the year for us, so we want officers to be in uniforms that breathe," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

The convention uniforms would not only be worn by Tampa officers, but also by law enforcement personnel from around Florida brought in to provide event security.

The shirt fronts would have Velcro-like fasteners where one strip of fabric with the wearer's name could be attached, while a second would identify each as a police officer, sheriff's deputy or state trooper. An emblem on the back also would identify the wearer as police, deputy or trooper. And the sleeves would have spots where an American flag patch could be attached to one arm and a patch from the wearer's agency to the other.

Money for the uniforms would come from a $50 million federal grant for convention security. It would go to Patrick's Uniforms of Florida. The company, which has an office on Adamo Drive, has an existing contract to provide uniforms for city employees.

Tampa officials have said they plan to bring in up to 3,000 officers from agencies outside the Tampa Bay area to help local authorities during the convention. When possible, however, they want local officers and deputies who have a stake in how their hometown is seen by the world to be on the front lines of demonstrations that week.

In another development, federal officials recently expanded the official time frame of the convention.

On March 30, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano designated an Aug. 26 welcome party being planned in Pinellas County as part of the "national special security event" that includes the Aug. 27-30 convention itself.

Having the designation means that the Secret Service will take over the security plan for the welcome party, where the guest list is expected to include up to 5,600 convention delegates and 15,000 journalists at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

It also means that some of the security costs for the welcome party will be entitled to be covered by money from the federal convention security grant, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt, though details of how much and which expenses are still being discussed.

In an interview Tuesday with the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, the president and chairman of the Tampa Bay Host Committee said they believe the security designation was expanded because no convention has ever combined what are traditionally two separate parties for the delegates and media into a single huge event.

"This is a first," host committee president Ken Jones said. "It will be the biggest preconvention party in history."

Local officials and the Secret Service have said the party is being planned for the Trop, but the host committee leaders, who have been negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays for use of the facility, said they are not ready to announce the location. That could come within a week.

Otherwise, Jones and host committee chairman Al Austin said convention preparations are on course and on schedule.

The host committee is raising $55 million to pay for putting on the convention. Without giving the running total so far, Jones said fundraising is going well. The Republican Party set six fundraising deadlines for the host committee, and he said the committee has exceeded the targets set for each of the first four.

The host committee also has recruited about two-thirds of the 7,500 local volunteers needed to help behind the scenes or greet the 50,000 visitors expected for the convention.

Jones let slip a couple of names — Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd — that organizers have been working to book for a convention-week concert.

In August heat, Tampa wants GOP convention police wearing cotton, not polyester 04/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 7:11am]
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