'We can't pull it off': Sheriff says there isn't enough time, direction, and manpower to provide security for the Republican presidential convention

Associated Press
  • The Republican National Committee is planning to hold a presidential convention in Jacksonville, Florida, between August 25 and 27.
  • However, Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams told POLITICO that details of the event have yet to be nailed down, including whether it will be outdoors and, if so, where.
  • Without clear directions and insufficient manpower and funding, it will be impossible to provide security at the convention, he added.
  • Florida is grappling with an uptick in coronavirus cases, prompting Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood to say, “common sense is being thrown out the window.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Republican National Committee’s upcoming convention in Jacksonville, Florida, may not get the security it needs.

In years past, Republicans and Democrats have held conventions to solidify and celebrate each party’s platform for the next four years and to tout their presidential candidates. But the coronavirus has made these mass gatherings unsafe.

Republicans plan to host their convention on August 25, 26, and 27. The New York Times reported that officials are now mulling an outdoor event, but added a caveat: “[President Donald] Trump often shifts positions, and officials emphasised that the plan could change.”

With the plans still in flux – as well as inadequate funds and officers – Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams told Politico he can’t come up with a law enforcement plan for the event.

“As we’re talking today, we are still not close to having some kind of plan that we can work with that makes me comfortable that we’re going to keep that event and the community safe,” Williams told Politico.

The event was announced in June, which Williams said isn’t enough time for him or his agency to prepare. The RNC has yet to confirm the lineup of events and where they will be held. Further complicating matters, a $US50 million grant for security has since reduced to $US33 million, Williams said.

“At virtually 75 days it was an incredible lift, and everything would have to be perfect. And needless to say it has not,” Williams told Politico. “So you know with that, we can’t pull it off in any kind of current configuration.”

Meanwhile, the Sunshine State is combatting an alarming surge in coronavirus cases overwhelming its healthcare system. Nearly 360,400 people have been infected, around 9,450 patients have been hospitalized, and more than 50 hospitals statewide have run out of ICU beds, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

The Florida Sheriffs Association sent out an email in early July asking for 2,000 officers from departments across 67 counties, according to an email obtained by Politico. But only 500 can make it, Bob Gualtieri, the association’s president and Pinellas County Sheriff told Politico. Williams has now turned to the Florida Police Chiefs Association for aid.

“We do need law enforcement officers and we’ve gotten commitments, but not to the level that we thought we needed. And a lot of that is people having virus concerns from their communities, and I understand that,” he told Politico.

In addition to more officers, Williams told Politico that there were other logistical hurdles that needed to be resolved in little over a month.

“But there’s a lot of things that need to happen: an event schedule nailed down, and being able to sign contracts and spend money so that we can prepare for this event,” he said. “And none of that has happened yet.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who’s sending two-dozen officers to help with security, said the convention is a bad idea. Conventions typically require advance notice and monthslong planning and, Chitwood said, “that’s without COVID-19.”

“There’s a fear of telling him no because anyone who tells the president no, it’s like, off with their heads,” he said.

“Common sense is being thrown out the window,” he added.

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