Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Public safety

Florida National Guard to help with Republican National Convention security

TAMPA — On the ground and in the air, up to 1,700 troops from the Florida National Guard could play key support roles during the Republican National Convention.

It's rarely mentioned publicly, but officials have said the Guard troops — many if not most of whom will likely come from a brigade based in Pinellas Park — will be ready to help with duties ranging from communications to flying helicopters to helping police with security and, if necessary, civil disturbances.

Tampa police, who plan to have 3,000 to 4,000 local and out-of-town officers working each day of the convention, hope it will not come to that.

"While the National Guard has offered to send a large contingent of personnel during the RNC, we anticipate utilizing a smaller number to assist with traffic control and stationary security posts," police Chief Jane Castor said in a statement Tuesday.

Still, planning for Florida National Guard involvement at the convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30, has been under way since November 2010.

"We're relying heavily on the Florida National Guard," Jim Madden, assistant commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said last September during a briefing for the Florida Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Space and Domestic Security.

At the same meeting, the Florida National Guard's adjutant general told senators the Guard will be in Tampa to help civilian authorities — not take over.

"We would never be in lead on this operation," Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. said. "We're always there playing a supporting role to civilian and federal agencies to maintain peace, order and public safety, protecting lives and property."

In the worst case, the Florida National Guard would be ready with a task force of up to 300 personnel trained to handle the aftermath of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives emergencies.

"We will have search-and-rescue teams, extraction teams, decontamination teams and medical triage capability" through that task force, Titshaw said.

In addition, if circumstances require that the military presence be ramped up, the Guard will have personnel to receive, brief, stage and integrate those additional troops into convention operations. And its units have their own robust communications, including a cellphone network in case others go down.

"We can put a 5-mile bubble around any event," Titshaw said.

Many of the Guard personnel deployed to Tampa are likely to come from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Pinellas Park. The Guard plans to piggyback some convention-specific training onto the regular training it will conduct before the convention.

At the same time, as the Guard prepares for the 2012 hurricane season, it is specifically considering what it would need to do if it had troops in Tampa and a hurricane struck another part of the state.

"We've thrown all of that into our planning," said Ron Tittle, public affairs adviser for the Florida National Guard.

Money for the deployment will not come from the $50 million that Congress allocated to pay for security at the Republican National Convention.

Instead, funds for Guard operations at national political conventions typically come from the Department of Defense.

It's not unusual for the Guard to play a role at national political conventions. Other conventions have seen contingents of up to nearly 2,100 members of the Guard. For protest-heavy meetings of the G8 and G20 groups of nations, the deployments can include as many as 5,500 troops.

In 2008, about 1,600 military personnel helped secure the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. There, units ranged from bomb disposal and explosive detection dog teams to a Marine Corps chemical biological incident response force. On the first day of the convention, as protesters became increasingly aggressive, St. Paul police asked for 150 soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard to help with crowd control.

In Tampa, authorities expect up to 15,000 demonstrators, and they plan to assign city police and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies to work the protests whenever and wherever possible. That's because local officials want to put that all-important task in the hands of officers with a stake in how the rest of the world sees their hometown.

"Our folks will be on the front lines," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "They are the ones who have a vested interest in making sure this is successful."

But the mayor welcomes the Guard's help, whatever form it takes.

"Logistically and from a manpower perspective, I'm glad they're here," Buckhorn said. "I need everybody I can throw at this."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected], (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Comments
St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Two assistant police chiefs are stepping down next month, leaving two of the three second-in-command jobs vacant at the St. Petersburg Police Department.Assistant Chief Jim Previtera announced this week that he will resign from the d...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Tampa forum focuses on reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system

TAMPA — Changing the way Florida treats juvenile offenders was the focus of Monday night’s forum on criminal justice reform."We send more children to adult prison than any other state," said Raymer Maguire IV, manager of the ACLU’s Florida Campaign f...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Buchanan Middle aide used Instagram to seek nude photos, sex from students, deputies say

Buchanan Middle aide used Instagram to seek nude photos, sex from students, deputies say

TAMPA — A 24-year-old aide at Buchanan Middle School was arrested Monday and charged with using Instagram to ask for sex and nude photos from female students at the school, deputies said.Between Sept. 1 and the time of his arrest, Quinton J. Bradford...
Updated: 12 hours ago
New tracking system could help put a dent in juvenile car theft epidemic

New tracking system could help put a dent in juvenile car theft epidemic

LAKE MARY — Hundreds more juveniles who steal cars each year could be kept off the streets under a new tool approved by a Department of Juvenile Justice committee Tuesday, a move that could put a dent in a dangerous local car theft epidemic.Secretary...
Published: 12/12/17
Tampa police looking for Plant City girl, 15, considered to be in danger

Tampa police looking for Plant City girl, 15, considered to be in danger

TAMPA — Police were searching Tuesday for a missing 15-year-old Plant City girl who disappeared from a Tampa girls school.Zoe Warren was last seen about 8 a.m. Monday at the PACE Center for Girls, 1933 E. Hillsborough Ave., where she attends school, ...
Published: 12/12/17
Largo man arrested after passenger falls out of minivan and dies

Largo man arrested after passenger falls out of minivan and dies

PLANT CITY — A Largo man struck a pedestrian with a minivan last Friday, authorities said. Five minutes later, his female passenger was fatally struck by on-coming traffic after falling out of the vehicle.Plant City police arrested Todd Charles Riggs...
Published: 12/12/17

Police searching for robber who hit three North Tampa hotels

TAMPA — Police believe the same armed man committed early morning robberies at three North Tampa hotels within half a mile of one another, the latest just before 4 a.m. Tuesday.In the latest heist, the robber pointed a gun at a clerk in the West Wing...
Published: 12/12/17
Fire at Tampa townhome complex caused by faulty air-conditioner unit

Fire at Tampa townhome complex caused by faulty air-conditioner unit

TAMPA — A malfunctioning air conditioning unit sparked the fire that damaged several homes at the Brookshire Townhomes on Monday, authorities said.Investigators concluded the fire started on the back patio of unit B103 when the power supply of a cond...
Published: 12/12/17

Plant City boy, 12, dies in Mulberry crash as car turns into path of semi

MULBERRY — A 12-year-old Plant City boy died Tuesday when the car he was riding in turned into the path of a semitrailer on State Road 60, authorities said. Miguel Resendiz was riding in an eastbound BMW 328xi when its driver, 29-year-old Maricela Re...
Published: 12/12/17
Space heater likely cause of early-morning home fire in Valrico

Space heater likely cause of early-morning home fire in Valrico

VALRICO — A space heater is believed to be the cause of a home fire in Valrico on Tuesday morning.It took firefighters about 20 minutes to control the fire in a mobile home on Pierce Christie Drive, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.The ca...
Published: 12/12/17