Monday, July 18, 2016

Bright Lights

"Remember, this is not our party. Our job is to make sure everyone is safe." Lakewood Police Division Chief, Democratic National Convention, The Pepsi Center, Denver CO,  2008.

It was a different era. An unpopular Republican president was on the way out. The Democrats were nominating an African-American, campaigning on a platform of social justice. The host city welcomed hundreds of officers from surrounding jurisdictions to assist with protecting "The Venue" and the many thousands of people who attended. As the 2016 conventions begin, some thoughts on a very interesting week of fifteen hour days...

  • There were a lot of very nice people associated with the convention. Our food was supposed to be provided - at least a couple meals a day. That quickly broke down. The days prior to the actual convention, when we were on station as things were set up, none of the vendors were yet up and running. So, we scrounged. Several enterprising officers found food, coffee... Talked some of the folks in the press tents into feeding cops. By the end, caterers were delivering high-quality meals, meant for dignitaries, to the officers and Secret Service agents working inside. Free.
  • The Secret Service is good at keeping some secrets, horrible at others. I'm almost finished with a tell-all book written by a Uniformed Division White House Guard. He doesn't have a very high opinion of the Clintons. Neither did any of the men and women I met. There were no stories told at the Pepsi Center of black eyes, thrown lamps and shouting matches. There was just a general disdain for a person who treated them like hired help, and gave no thought to their welfare. They gave the following example: There were a lot of late nights, where the protectees stayed out into the wee hours. A morning breakfast meeting was scheduled, so agents went home, got two or three hours sleep, and returned for the new day's events. Only, the breakfast meeting was cancelled because of the late night. No one thought to tell the Secret Service. "If it happened once...okay," an agent remarked. "It happened constantly."
  • An agent and I were standing on the Main Floor, listening to an early convention harangue by one of the  party's lesser lights. The SS guy was probably a Republican, like me - we stood shaking our heads at what sounded to our ears as half-truths and ham-handed distortions. "How do you stand it?" I asked. "I'm not really listening," he replied, chuckling. "We have simple criteria for protectees. Give your fucking speech, get in the fucking limo and let's go." He smiled. "I have a life to lead away from them."
  • Most of the people involved were likable, away from the spotlight. Partisan knucklehead Harry Reid came over to a clutch of us and shook our hands, thanking us for our service, and for protecting them during the DNC. We stood chatting amiably for almost ten minutes. Former MSNBC lightweight Ed Shultz, seedier away from the camera than one would think, was funny in a gruff way. I gave him several credential sleeves (worth their weight in gold) and he promised to say nice things about us. For the rest of the convention he named the Lakewood agent guarding the door nearby and commented that we were the best department in the world. How can you not like that? Even Katie Couric would stop what she was doing and pose for pictures with any cop who wanted one. Oh... Megyn Kelly is even prettier in person.
  • "Recreate '68" didn't. Our alleged food venue required us to leave the secured grounds, exit past metal detectors and walk among the pedestrians surrounding the building. One officer went on a sandwich run for his team. Meanwhile, an angry crowd formed, lots of yelling, war faces and fence rattling. Here comes our guy, carrying a big box, wading in. "Excuse me, pardon me." The response? "Oh, sorry, officer," as folks stepped aside for him, before returning to yell anti-cop obscenities at the stern-faced SWAT team. "What the hell were you thinking?" we asked our officer. "I was hungry."
  • Bill Clinton's handshake isn't very impressive. But, he's a hoot. He had come down from the suites and was about to get in his limo. But, he spied the crowd inside the building and took off to do some unscheduled gladhanding. I got the cold fish handshake, a "hi, officer" (I'm a sergeant, sir) and he plunged into a venue full of thousands of people, one SS agent in tow. The Secret Service went nuts, the convention attendees loved it and, for a moment, it looked like he was going for a walk in Downtown Denver.
  • Finally... I had the time of my professional life. 

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