The Face of A GOP Convention.

Protesters clash with Chicago police after grand jury decisions in police-involved deaths in December 2014. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Protesters clash with Chicago police after grand jury decisions in police-involved deaths in December 2014. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

For security reasons, Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said he can’t get into the details of what the city has bought or borrowed, and if all goes well during the convention, we will likely never see much of it. The Cleveland police did not respond to a request for comment. They will oversee security in much of the “event zone” where rallies, marches and other protests are allowed to take place.

The thing about the LRAD, and other devices like it, is that more and more cities have them. And things haven’t always gone smoothly — which is what has activists, civil liberties groups and others in Cleveland concerned.

Much like the federal programs that many Americans only learned of after they saw images of police in tank-like vehicles trying to quell protests and riots in Ferguson, Mo., those $50 million national special security event grants are changing the way America’s cities are policed. They have supplied the funds for cities across the country to obtain devices that some have described as dangerous — or, at the very least, unsuitable for urban settings.

Civil rights and liberties groups that have been trying to find out what Cleveland has or plans to buy only know this: These items will include a range of what’s known in the security industry as “non-lethal” munitions. They will be available during the RNC. They will remain in Cleveland and available for general police use when the convention is over.

“There is a balance that has to be struck between security and civil liberties,” said Joycelyn Rosnick, a co-coordinator with the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild.

And that balance is going to be particularly tricky in Cleveland during the Republican convention. Local and state gun laws mean that people who enter the 3.3-square-mile event zone will be allowed to carry firearms if they have a carry permit. Guns will only be prohibited in one section of the zone, known as the “secure perimeter,” which includes the convention hall. The Secret Service has security dominion there.

The Fix told you a bit about the $50 million security grant Thursday and some of the rules governing protest activity around the Republican convention. There are some people who view it as combustible situation because of the protests and the rules that aim to contain them.

Then, we learned more. Much more.

Here’s a look at some of what the city of Tampa, the host of the 2012 Republican National Convention, obtained or paid for with its $50 million grant (click here for a longer list):

  • Two LRADs
  • Segways, three-wheel transport vehicles and utility vehicles to transport teams of police
  • Communications devices, system upgrades and a closed-circuit television system for the area around the convention site
  • A Bearcat — a small armored personnel carrier
  • A spectrometer
  • Gear for officers, including new saddles for mounted police
  • Pepper ball munitions
  • Other non-lethal munitions, such as rubber bullets and tasers
  • An “assortment of chemical aerosols, irritant gases, less-lethal impact munitions and distraction devices that can be used to disperse unruly crowds and interrupt criminal attacks on persons and property”
  • Bomb blast window film
  • Traffic cameras
  • Overtime and benefits for police officers and fire fighters

And, in Cleveland, city officials have made this partial list of security purchases and expenses public:

  • 2,000 sets of full riot gear
  • 2,000 26-inch retractable steel batons
  • 2,500 steel barriers stretching about 3.7 miles
  • 2,400 portable and wearable hydration pacs
  • 15 motorcycles and 310 sets of protective clothing for riders
  • 310 police bikes and protective gear
  • Three horse trailers
  • 10,000 sets of plastic handcuffs
  • Two night vision devices
  • Body armor, including anti-ballistic helmets, groin, arm, chest and leg protection
  • 16 Pointer Illuminator Aiming Lasers
  • A video surveillance system
  • Eight Surface Pro laptops and two cameras
  • Overtime and benefits for police officers and firefighters

There’s also been a request for proposals from companies that can supply Cleveland with tear gas.

There’s much more at the Washington Post. I don’t know how anyone could read this, and not be appalled.


  1. says


    All those toys to play with.

    Yep, just like cops everywhere. Got to have some excuse to use all that nifty stuff they were never meant to have.

  2. rq says

    Okaaay. Wow. It’s like they need all that stuff for a war or something. :/ I guess that old motto of ‘Protect and Serve’ is a bit dated by now.
    Seeing all of this stuff when I still curated the racism thread was mind-boggling. Guess things haven’t changed.

  3. lorn says

    “Two LRADs”

    For those not up on their military/police acronyms LRAD stands for Long Range Acoustic Device. Essentially these are arrays of small speakers phased to produce a high intensity acoustic beam. At wide focus and low power it is a very effective loud speaker that is effective out to several hundred meters. The ability to focus the acoustic beam is quite useful in giving direction and instructions in that you can direct your message to a much smaller area and the much longer range, compared to a conventional bullhorn, can help keep groups at a safe distance.

    On tighter focus and higher power settings it is a weapon. One capable of inflicting pain and potentially permanent deafness at ranges of over one hundred meters. People targeted in experiments have reported confusion, disorientation and pain at higher settings. Lower frequency outputs have been rumored to cause potentially fatal internal damage at extreme amplitudes. Given that these types of systems are being substituted for lethal force the standard for “less harm” is low. The thought is that deaf beats dead.

    LRADs are useful communication devices that become weapons at higher settings and closer ranges. It depends of how they are used.

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