Copping an attitude

The recent revelations about the NYPD's practices preceding the 2004 Republican National Convention—namely that the department was collecting data on possible attendees across the county and sharing it with other law enforcement agencies, a practice that once was called "spying"—made many locals paranoid about the 2008 GOP blowout in St. Paul. But the controversy has made local officials a little uneasy as well.

One call to the St. Paul PD spokesman Tom Walsh (who notes that he is not an officer with the department) seeking a reaction to the round of lawsuits that led to the unveiling of the NYPD's spying indicates as much.

"There has been such a focus on the lawsuits by the media and I don't understand it," Walsh growls over the phone. "There are going to be lawsuits after every convention, and frankly that's not our concern."

Calming ever-so-slightly, Walsh offers that the St. Paul force, the "principal agency" in handling the convention, has been studying "every major gathering of the last several years" including Democratic and Republican conventions going back to the 1950s, to learn about "things that have gone well and have not gone well." Without going into specifics, Walsh notes the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as a particularly worry-free event.

So, what can residents and visitors to our fair Twin Cities expect when the Grand Old Party comes to town?

"We are training our police officers in a way that we think will allow people to fully express their opinions and First Amendment rights in that environment," Walsh notes, sounding a far cry from Officer Friendly. "But there are those who are coming to break the law, and those who break the law will be arrested."