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Event officials, police expect safe environment around NAACP convention

Posted at 2:00 PM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-11 17:33:53-04

CINCINNATI — Aside from a visit by presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, extra precautions aren’t expected to be necessary for the upcoming NAACP convention here, according to event organizers and police.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will hold its 107th annual convention in Cincinnati July 16 through 20. The convention, most of which will take place at the Duke Energy Convention Center, features events including speeches, workshops and commerce and industry shows.

Despite two fatal shootings of black men by police last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and near St. Paul, Minnesota and shootings during a Dallas protest that left five police officers dead and seven injured, local NAACP representatives don’t expect much of an effect on the convention.

“I don’t think it would necessarily have much more of an impact, but naturally it’s going to be on everybody’s mind,” said Robert Richardson, president of the Cincinnati NAACP.

He’s not aware of any protests planned during the time of the convention, nor of any plans by the NAACP to prepare for potential protests, he said. On Sunday, a Black Lives Matter march with around 5,000 people was conducted peacefully and without incident in Over-the-Rhine.

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NAACP representatives have been working with the Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau since last year to prepare for the convention.

“We’ve been planning accordingly to make it a safe environment,” said Tiffaney Hardy, public information officer for Cincinnati Police Department.

The department will move forward with the plans already in place, she said.

“We can’t ignore the events, but we will be as prepared as we can to respond to anything that we need to respond to,” she said.

Clinton is making an appearance Monday, which will have an added layer of security and coordination with the Secret Service.

"We work in partnership. Certainly, they handle the interior part of the security, but we certainly play our role in that as well," Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said.

Although Hardy couldn’t share specific details about the department’s plans, she expects the approach to be similar to the last time Cincinnati hosted the NAACP convention, in 2008. Officers will be available on foot patrol and at a mobile command unit near the convention center.

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The police department’s approach also is informed by their experience last year dealing with protests after former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing fatally shot Sam DuBose during a traffic stop.

“I think what worked well in our favor was giving people the opportunity to speak out and giving them an opportunity in a safe environment to protest,” Hardy said.

The Hamilton County Regional Operations Center will be active during the convention, as well.

"The role here is just to monitor what's happning on the ground and try to anticipate anything that might be needed, and then to respond to any requests for assistance," said Nick Crossley, director of the Hamilton County Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency.

While the possibility of protests during the convention may not have been in the forefront of organizers’ minds prior to the most recent shootings, the topic of police force already was slated to be addressed.

“The topic will be heightened in the discussion now,” Richardson said.

Organizers expect to use the convention, which is themed “Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Count,” as a platform to discuss a resolution submitted by the Cincinnati NAACP that advocates for additional police training to de-escalate use of force.

“Right now, in most police training programs, there’s very little emphasis on de-escalation,” Richardson said. “It’s more on enforcement.”

Although the topic will be a key piece of the convention in light of recent events, both Richardson and Hardy emphasized their organizations’ aim to provide and open and welcoming climate for attendees.

“We still encourage the people to try and attend while it’s here,” Richardson said.

Officers will be “prepared for whatever level of response might be necessary,” but the intent is to not take an adversarial approach and to avoid “over-policing,” Hardy said.

“We want people to come and feel safe and to know that we are committed to maintaining their safety and their security while they are experiencing our beautiful downtown,” she said.

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WCPO's Tom McKee contributed to this report.