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Tampa Police Show Off New Tactics for Republican National Convention

Tampa PD rollout 011.jpg
Steve Newborn

Tampa Police rolled out their newest tactics today to help keep the peace at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Tampa police showed off their new uniforms, a fleet of 200 bicycles and - most importantly - a demonstration of how their training can keep violence from escalating. But the most important lesson they learned - according to Police Chief Jane Castor - is how police in the last GOP convention host city - St. Paul - were prepared. There, city police and other security officials weren't even on the same radio frequency.

"Our communication is much, much better," Castor says of the difference between the two host cities. " We are on real-time communication with every officer in the downtown area. And so we will be able to monitor crowd and traffic through the camera system there downtown with our officers. And then also, we've got the two-way communication with all of the citizens and business owners in the downtown area."

That means people living and working around the convention will be able to tell officers if they spot any trouble brewing.

Officer Kris Babino says Tampa officers went to Chicago for the recent NATO summit, where some of the protests got out of hand.

"We had a couple of people from the different agencies go up there, " he says, "and when they came back, they gave us an after-action report, and explain what they learned, and they we kind of tried to modify or design our training for the officers around what other people's mistakes - or the positive choices that they made - were. So we could have the least amount of problems as possible."

Part of the changes made were buying 200 bicycles that can also be used as impromptu barriers.

To view a video of a mockup "demonstration" staged by Tampa Police, click HERE.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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