Security Tightened for DNC

Posted July 23, 2004 at 6:40pm

Capitol Police officials plan to implement strict security measures mirroring many now used in the Capitol complex in an attempt to ensure lawmakers’ safety while attending this week’s Democratic National Convention in Boston.

According to a source familiar with the law-enforcement agency’s security plans, Capitol Police officials will erect magnetometers and screen visitors entering hotels scheduled to host Congressional lawmakers.

Officers are also expected to screen deliveries to the properties, including vehicle checks similar to those conducted on cars and trucks on Capitol grounds.

In addition, about a half-dozen of the department’s K-9 officers will also be deployed to Boston.

“It’s going to be no less the service than we give them here,” the source noted.

While the same level of security measures have not been used for previous conventions, the source noted that the procedures — including likely security sweeps of properties prior to the arrival of Members and staff over the weekend — are similar to those used to protect Congressional Delegations traveling abroad.

A Capitol Police spokesman, officer Michael Lauer, declined last week to comment on the agency’s security plans.

“We’re not commenting on any aspect of the security,” Lauer said.

Several weeks earlier, however, a Capitol Police spokeswoman did confirm that the department planned to send a contingent of uniformed officers, in addition to those officers assigned to protect specific Members through its Dignitary Protective Division.

“We have some [officers] detailed for support,” said Sgt. Contricia Sellers-Ford, the department’s spokeswoman. The department declined to release statistics on the number of officers who will attend either the Democratic or Republican conventions.

When asked to compare preparations to those for the 2000 conventions, Ford acknowledged that law-enforcement procedures have been elevated in the security intensive environment created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia.

“Of course it’s going to be a little different as far as added security precautions,” Ford said in early June.

Since the Homeland Security Department designated the convention as a “National Special Security Event” in late May, the Secret Service has taken the lead in coordinating the efforts of dozens of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, including the Capitol Police.

“Capitol Police have been meeting with other agencies and the Secret Service for months prior to the conventions,” Lauer said.

The Secret Service declined to provide an estimate on the total number of officers expected to police the Boston area.

A Boston Police Department spokeswoman also declined to provide specific figures, but asserted that: “There will definitely be enough officers on the streets.”

In addition to security measures that include road and subway station closures near the Fleet Center, as well as the removal of garbage cans, mailboxes and newspaper boxes that could be used to plant explosives, Boston Police spokeswoman Beverly Ford noted that officers — including more than 80 local police departments — have completed several months of training focused on crowd control and other issues.

In the weeks leading to the convention, several Democratic Members noted minimal concerns about a potential terrorist strike, despite repeated terror warnings issued by the Bush administration.

“I know a lot is being done,” said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). “I think we’re going to be fine.”

Fellow Connecticut lawmaker Rep. John Larson (D) said: “You can’t prepare for every single contingency. You do the best you can. You can’t live your life concerned about whether terrorists are going to strike.”

Several Members, including Larson, noted that they face similar threats each day working in the Capitol complex, widely considered a terrorist target.

“I feel the same way about this place. This is always a target and we’ll remain a target,” Larson said.

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) echoed the sentiment of his colleagues, stating: “I’m unfazed by these warnings.”

In a light-hearted quip, he added: “I do have some concerns about what I’m going to do with my time since the bars close at 2 [a.m.] in Boston.”