NYPD blues: St. Paul cops reject 2004 RNC tactics

This week's

Village Voice

examines police preparations for the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The New York weekly notes that local cops are pledging to avoid the heavy handed tactics of the NYPD in 2004. But

the article

also points out that the St. Paul Police Department is purchasing 230 tasers--one for every officer on patrol--in time for the September gathering. It further notes complaints from anti-war activists that the city has been slow to issue demonstration permits. Still SPPD spokesman Tom Walsh is promising respectful treatment for protesters:

So far, the run-up to the 2008 convention is mellower than that for the 2004 confab. Although Walsh acknowledges that St. Paul police have been in regular contact with NYPD officials to get advice on "general plans," he says he doesn't know the details. But he does tell the Voice that Minnesota cops aren't planning mass arrests like the 1,800 made in New York City—more than 1,600 of which were dismissed without any charges being filed. "To my knowledge," Walsh adds, there are no plans to set up a mass-detention facility. In 2004, the NYPD used a former bus depot off the West Side Highway to detain RNC protesters for more than two days before they were brought into court.

As for pre-convention surveillance and infiltration—two tactics vigorously embraced by New York City officials in the summer of 2004—Walsh demurs on the details, but insists that the St. Paul Police Department doesn't have the money or the resources to spy on and infiltrate organizations (most of them benign) all over the country, the way the NYPD did.

"I'm not going to characterize their approach as being too heavy-handed," Walsh says. "I'm just saying we're taking an approach that is different, and it is a little more open."

Of course if the St. Paul cops really do intend to spy on protesters and conduct mass arrests during the RNC, Walsh probably wouldn't admit such plans to the press. Only time will tell.

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