Latest update from the Denver Business Journal (June 16) reports the Denver police department is purchasing eighty-eight crowd control weapons, ammunitions and accessories for crowd control purposes at the DNC. These weapons fire round balls filled with pepper spray irritants and explode upon impact. Yahoo Finance reports on the same purchase indicating the purchase order was in the low six figures. The Yahoo report cites Ben Cook, Director of Veritas Tactical division of Security With Advanced Technology Inc. (SWAT – the parent company of Veritas) as noting:“We are pleased with this purchase commitment as we believe that it is a strong validation of the benefits that our new Mark IV rifle launcher provides to law enforcement and military agencies. The Democratic National Convention will be a significant setting to demonstrate the less-lethal nature and tactical capabilities of our products, especially when compared to alternative systems.” Cook added, “We continue to have follow-on discussions with multiple agencies which are currently evaluating the Mark IV rifle launchers.”
“In May, [Denver City] council members gave their nod to major expenditures such as a new SWAT vehicle, communications equipment and an amplification system. Rather than any serious discussion about why such big-ticket items may be needed, the council’s safety committee instead chose to crack jokes. ‘I’m not quite sure I know what a SWAT vehicle is all about,’ said Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz. ‘Can we use it for insects?’ quipped Councilman Doug Linkhart to much guffawing.”
Susan Greene, Denver Post, June 5, 2008
Let me educate the apparently naive Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz and note that the comment by Councilman Doug Linkhart which, contextually, is probably best described as “silly-assed” and those other Denver City council members who found it appropriate to “guffaw” with the specter of the Denver Police Department purchasing a SWAT vehicle as part of the $18 million (or is it $25 million???) of equipment to be acquired to control CITIZENS during the Democratic National Convention: SWAT means SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS. Don’t think there’s really any need to explain further. SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS kind of speaks for itself.
Really kewl stuff, huh!
What concerns me about Hick’s happy-crappy missive of a few days ago in which he assures us all that the Democratic National Convention will be a cakewalk, not unlike the opening day of a Rockies season, is what he didn’t tell us…what was certainly omitted most likely in the interests of “security concerns,” something akin to winky-wink I’ve got a secret y’all and I ain’t tellin’.
Specifically, hizzoner tells us that, “We are working very hard to ensure that downtown residents and workers can get around and access their buildings with ease during the Democratic National Convention. …While there will be some additional screening procedures and security measures in some locations, all downtown residents will be able to access their homes and parking garages. Downtown businesses will be able to remain open with access to employees and customers. …Our top priorities are to keep Denver open for business and to ensure the Convention is a historic, memorable and safe celebration. We plan to provide the most effective and comprehensive security possible, while maintaining an event that is inclusive and enjoyable. We are not looking to impact public access any more than necessary…” (The highlights are mine.)
Okay. Residents, employees and customers who live, work/patronize businesses downtown are covered. No problem. Just think of the disruption as nothing more significant than opening day for the Rockies…with a wee bit of “…additional screening and security measures.” Should we wonder what the word “additional” entails?
I see myself, during the donkey dance, hiking from my Northwest Denver home, camera in hand and heading downtown to experience what will be–as the Hick rightly notes–a historic event. But, then, if I’m not a downtown worker, resident or shopper or diner, what then will I encounter with regard to “…additional screening and security measures…?”
With the ACLU being shot down (no pun intended) by the Denver Police Department–once again, in the interests of “security”–in their attempt to discover what “equipment” was/is being purchased by the City and County of Denver to assure a peaceful donkey dance, should I wonder if my decision to immerse myself in this historical event (primarily taking pictures) might prove to be, um, ill-advised? Not necessarily because some wingnuts who happen to believe in the promise of the FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION and who might exercise their right to assemble and spew a bit but, rather, should I be concerned about how the City will respond (with their secret cop stuff–ray guns, bean bag cannons, CS gas etc.), to stifle that CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT?
It is instructive to note that the ACLU filed suit recently in Denver District Court asking the court to order Denver to disclose the police equipment purchases and find that Denver’s interpretation of the Colorado Open Records statute is flawed.
Please note a few items included in a recent bid issued by the City’s Purchasing Division: (Click to enlarge) Well, the intended purpose of the items included in this particular bid is, by their description, self-explanatory. But, should we wonder what other police “equipment” has been purchased quite outside the scrutiny of the public and, as the outcome of the ACLU inquiry indicates, not something which is required to be revealed by the “Open Records” State statute?
There are, of course (if one is willing to dig a bit) examples of what other equipment is being purchased by the city for the Donkey dance. For example: 1. Wireless camera system – $947,364 2. Expansion of Denver’s Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD) – $588,550 3. Unified Mobile Command Unit – $677,560 4. SWAT Vehicle – $200,000 5. Amplification system – $385,000 6. Interagency Communication Gizmo – $650,000 7. Communications Equipment – $300,000
This equipment, so far, accounts for about $4 Million of the $25 Million honey pot for security at the Democratic National Convention. I wonder what else is coming? (Note: There may be some duplication of the items above, as one source was a video of a Denver City Council Safety Committee meeting and the other an actual Council Bill presented to Denver City Council.)
Oh, I note the $25 million figure because, to date, Mel Thompson, the Deputy Manager of Safety and former Budget Director for Denver has asked for and received from the Denver City Council two supplemental appropriations from Denver’s General Fund in the amounts of $5 million and $20 million. Mister Thompson and Kathy Archuleta, the Hick’s point person with the Feds with regard to securing the promised $50 million from the Federal government to put on the Donkey dance, have assured City Council Denver will be reimbursed by the Feds for any money it spends to secure whatever it needs to assure domestic peace and tranquility during the convention. (Just a thought… Isn’t the promised $50 million coming from taxpayers, just out of a much larger pot than Denver’s General Fund? No, probably not. The $50 million is probably funny money, perhaps borrowed from China or India, and will become, yes, part of the National Debt which, of course, the PEOPLE will be on the hook for, extending well into the next several generations and I’m wondering why we, THE PEOPLE, have to pay for this nonsense anyway. But, that’s fodder for another rant.)
I suppose we can wonder all we want about the specifics of the cop equipment being purchased. But, chances are we’re not going to discover the extent to which the City has gone to assure THE PEOPLE don’t disrupt the donkey dance until the donkeys arrive and turn on the lights at the Pepsi Center. I suspect there has been a plethora of purchases, many high dollar items that, who knows, will be wheeled out, displayed, deployed upon the determination of one or another Secret Service agent, Homeland Security honcho or Denver Police officer that a “threat” is imminent to public peace and tranquility. And, of course, there’s the rub. What exactly will constitute a “threat” to the public peace and tranquility? That, too, appears to be something that hizzoner and minions consider to be a secret.
Mel Thompson, Deputy Manager of Safety, noted in a recent City Council Safety Committee meeting that the purchase of all this stuff is being done in strict accordance with Denver’s purchasing rules. That is to say, what can be bid supposedly was/will be bid; what can’t be bid or more precisely what is identified as “Sole Source” will not be be bid but simply be purchase according to the requisites of Section 20-64 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code.
I won’t bore you with any commentary on this section of the Code, except to say that it is most likely that Sections 20-64 (a)(1)(3) and 20-64(b)(1) are and will be the operatives sections utilized by the City to purchase this equipment.
Back to Mel Thompson, Deputy Manager of Safety.
When Mister Thompson was asked to acknowledge during the Council Safety Committee meeting that the purchases of cop equipment for the donkey dance constituted a “windfall” for the Denver Police Department, he–quite self-righteously and, in my opinion, inappropriately (or, perhaps, a self-serving hyperbole)–declared that no (and I’m paraphrasing), we must not look at this as a windfall for the cops (the Department of Safety). No, siree. We must look at this as simply the acquiring of the equipment necessary to provide a safe and peaceful atmosphere for the donkey dance. The question was asked, Yes, but don’t we, Denver, get to keep all this equipment after the Dems have left town. Well, yes, we do. But, again we must not think of it as a windfall.
Why is this significant? Well, see, Mister Thompson is a budget guy. And, while the Department of Safety (Mister Thompson’s realm) consumes half of Denver’s annual budget, Mister Thompson is surely considering at the back of his mind that those pesky City Councilpeople will, at some time or another after the donkeys have left town start thinking about that extra $18 to $25 million in equipment the Department of Safety was provided with and wonder, Hey, couldn’t we take a bit of the appropriated budget from the Department of Safety and maybe spread it around to other departments, say, oh, maybe Parks and Recreation?
Well, once again, typically, I do go on.
Let me just end this by noting a caveat to everything I’ve written above. Everyone–even those who plan to parade and protest, scream, stomp and holler–understands the necessity to preserve the peace during the donkey dance. Violence, destructive behavior, rioting is necessarily what the Secret Service, Homeland Security and the Denver Police Department are preparing contingencies for. I think we all understand that. But, concomitant with that understanding is the fervent belief that the promise of the CONSTITUTION must be preserved; that the FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF CITIZENS MUST BE ACCOMMODATED with as little restriction as possible. I know, a delicate balance. But, there it is. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if that balance is preserved.
And, to Denver City Councilpeople: Let’s stop the guffawing. Okay.