Thursday, May 24, 2018
Public safety

Mutual-aid agreements ensure officers for RNC in Tampa are compatible with Tampa police

TAMPA — Fifty-nine law enforcement agencies will travel to Tampa to provide security outside the Republican National Convention, and Tampa police Chief Jane Castor wants to make sure every officer stands up to scrutiny.

That's because police expect most officer-citizen encounters at the RNC will be video-recorded — by journalists, citizens and city cameras posted through downtown.

And though the city is planning to buy liability insurance that covers up to $10 million, police have previously said they want to avoid the courtroom.

In a letter sent to each agency, Castor asked that they send officers "suited to the task by experience, temperament and disciplinary history."

That's important because so many coming in to Tampa aren't familiar with the city and have never worked a convention, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Tuesday.

"It has the potential to be combustible," he said. "We want officers who are either accustomed to dealing with that or have the temperament to deal with it."

These expectations — and promises made by Tampa — are detailed in a mutual aid agreement mailed to each agency earlier this month.

The agreement is more than a legal document, Castor wrote in a cover letter.

"It is a firm handshake," she stated, "confirming we will handle this challenge side-by-side."

At the end of the memo, police list the 59 agencies that have said they'll help with the RNC. The formal agreements, signed by each agency's chief, have been trickling in to Tampa police.

The list includes large agencies (Broward County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol) and small ones (Winter Park and Waldo police departments).

Every Tampa Bay area sheriff's office is included, and even some small Pinellas municipalities — such as the Gulfport Police Department.

Each agency can choose which officers it sends and whether that includes supervisors.

All officers will be reimbursed for their time on the job, including overtime, the agreement states. That money comes from a $50 million convention security grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The grant will cover the officers' hotels, food and pay.

Hillsborough law enforcement also will be reimbursed for back-filling positions. That's because officers spread out across the county will have to work extra shifts to make up for those heading downtown.

Law enforcement officers often pitch in to help with disasters and major crimes in other jurisdictions. Tampa saw dozens of outsiders after the shooting of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in 2010.

But most of those moments come without warning. It's a "luxury," Castor wrote, to have time to develop a strategy, buy equipment and conduct training.

Agencies will be reimbursed if their officers do more than 40 hours of training, and the liability insurance coverage will start July 1 so it covers some of that training, the agreement states.

The insurance coverage will extend through cleanup.

Castor also assured the agencies that they will be authorized to make arrests and do regular police work in Tampa — even if they're from out of town.

That's because Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign an executive order just before the convention, declaring a "state of emergency."

Times staff writer Rick Danielson contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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