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South Tampa News

Tampa police show off RNC gear

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:15 AM
TAMPA -

"You one-percenters!" a protester screamed at police today, as he and his comrades marched, banged cans and tossed tennis balls at the officers.

The officers' response to the mock demonstration was textbook: They stood firm, despite the protestors' efforts to rile them, and used tear gas to disperse the crowd after the protestors refused to back down. Nobody was arrested, and no one injured.

The exercise highlighted an event where the Tampa Police Department unveiled the uniforms, equipment, techniques and technology it plans to use to maintain order during the Republican National Convention this month.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Chief Jane Castor previewed the items and training to roughly 70 business and community and leaders at the Tampa Police Training Academy on 34th Street.

"I will tell you in no uncertain terms: This is the biggest thing the city of Tampa has ever done," Buckhorn said of the convention.

Here's a sampling of what the police department showed off:

Uniforms

Law enforcement will wear lightweight, khaki-colored cotton uniforms. The material was designed to keep officers cool during the heat and humidity of August.

"Heat is probably going to be the biggest issue of the RNC," Castor said.

The uniforms, which cost about $500,000, will give a friendlier, more unified look to the mix of officers coming to town, police said. Still, law enforcement officers will be able to signal where they're from by attaching patches from their departments using Velcro strips on the uniforms, which are labeled "police," "sheriff" or "trooper."

Officers can transition into "hard gear," reinforcing their uniforms with everything from chest and back protectors to arm and leg shields.

Training

Police showed videos of officers' reactions during protests elsewhere. Those videos were used during RNC security training to show the right and wrong ways to react.

In one video, taken in another jurisdiction, an investigator strikes a protester in the head with a shield; the protester died. In another video, an officer yells at woman who was blowing bubbles at him.

Tampa police said their goal during the RNC is to allow people to assemble and speak but that they aren't going to tolerate blatant violations of the law or physical attacks.

"You've got to show restraint, you've got to show patience," Castor said. "Force is going to be our last resort."

SWAT truck

Parked outside the event was the city's new $273,000 armored SWAT truck.

Police already had two SWAT vehicles, but Castor said they were old and expensive to maintain.

"They pretty much outlived their usefulness," Castor said.

Four-wheel drive vehicles

The city bought 13 Bobcat four-wheel drive utility vehicles, which look like muscular versions of golf carts. The vehicles, which cost $150,730, will be used for "crowd management, safety and security duties" during the convention.

As many as four people can ride in one Bobcat vehicle. All feature brush guards, stiff plastic windshields, bucket seats, cup holders and cargo areas and tailgates similar to pickups.

Bicycles

The 200 Kona bicycles the city purchased allow officers to navigate through crowds and rough terrain.

The bikes cost almost $1,600 each – for a total of $319,400.


jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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