CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Law enforcement officials in Cleveland have been expressing confidence in the city’s plan to protect delegates and visitors at the Republican National Convention, and while there haven’t been any major incidents as the expected 50,000 visitors began arriving this weekend, officials are prepared for tensions to rise in the coming days, especially in light of the deadly shootings of police officers in Louisiana on Sunday.
Steve Gomez, a former FBI special agent in charge, said that at events like the convention, police are typically deployed as visible deterrents for would-be offenders. But now, in light of the shootings of officers in Dallas, Milwaukee and most recently Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the police themselves could be targets.
“Police resources deployed will now be well briefed on potential ambush and diversion scenarios, as well having police personnel in place to watch for potential snipers and/or active shooters that will target the actual security force,” said Gomez, who is now an ABC News contributor.
He said that plainclothes officers and snipers could be used as additional elements of a layered police presence.
In spite of the unrest in Louisiana, the days before the first party national convention of the year — which opens at 1 p.m. today — have been relatively calm.
There was at least one arrest of a protester in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon after the individual reportedly tried to take a trooper’s gas mask, according to the Cleveland Police Department.
Sunday’s demonstrations were largely peaceful, with one multihour protest eventually dispersing without incident as police stood by. Many were seen with specially outfitted bikes that are being used both as transportation and as a makeshift barrier.
John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security acting undersecretary, who was involved in the planning of the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, said that the team on the ground in Cleveland was likely already as prepared as it could be.
Cohen, who is now an ABC News contributor, said that he doesn’t “think they can do more” but that the shooting in Baton Rouge as well as the truck attack in Nice, France, which left more than 80 people dead last week, “are going to place [law enforcement] and security personnel more on edge.”
“The shooting will only add to what is already an extraordinarily complicated security environment, which is further complicated by the open carry issue,” he said, referring to Ohio gun laws that allow people to legally carry their guns in public.
“Law enforcement and security personnel are dealing with an extremely high-risk threat environment — while ... trying to allow people to lawfully protest. The next several days are going to be very intense for law enforcement in Cleveland,” Cohen said.