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1K Pa. State Police to Pittsburgh for G-20 September 8, 2009

Posted by scmla in Article.

1K Pa. State Police to Pittsburgh for G-20
August 26, 2009

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police expects to send more than 1,000 troopers to Pittsburgh for the G-20 Summit, one of the largest deployments in the history of the agency — and nearly a quarter of its total number of troopers.

They’ll make up perhaps the biggest part of a force that also will include out-of-town and out-of-state police. Pittsburgh officials want police with experience, training and no recent conduct blemishes, according to a draft contract that the city intends to offer to other law enforcement agencies.

The Pittsburgh Police Bureau has fewer than 900 officers, but officials are hoping to put as many as 4,000 officers on city streets to provide security for the gathering of world leaders, which takes place Sept. 24-25 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

With 4,300 troopers, the state police is the second-largest law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania, trailing only Philadelphia’s police department.

“It changes on a daily basis, but I can tell you with certainty we have over 1,000 personnel committed,” said Maj. Terry Seilhamer, of the Butler barracks, who is in charge of planning the agency’s role in G-20 security.

“We’re very grateful,” said city Public Safety Director Michael Huss. He said that with the state commitment, and verbal pledges from other agencies nationally that he would not name, he’s confident that “we’ll be OK” for the summit.

The massive deployment is drawing on all 16 of the state police “troops” across the state, including helicopters, K-9 units, motorcycle and bicycle troopers, horses, vehicle inspectors, hazardous materials experts and the state police version of a SWAT team.

The motorcycle unit likely will help with escorting dignitaries throughout the Pittsburgh area and “rolling closures” of highways as motorcades cross the city.

State police also will provide undercover troopers.

In recent weeks, many troopers have been receiving refresher training on crowd control techniques, and they will have “standard civil disorder equipment,” including ballistic vests and helmets with face shields, in case violence erupts.

“It’s not that we have any expectations,” Maj. Seilhamer said. “But you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

The city plans to train out-of-town officers in an emerging G-20 Operational Plan on Sept. 23, then house and feed them during the summit. They will typically get overtime pay for their 12-hour shifts, plus expenses negotiated in advance between the city and the agency providing them.

According to the contracts the city will offer, any outside officer assigned to the summit must be free of any lawsuit or sustained internal affairs investigation related to free-speech violations, excessive force or conduct unbecoming an officer during the past three years.

The visitors will be under the command of Pittsburgh Chief Nate Harper, and their job will be “supplementing us and backing us up,” said Mr. Huss.

Visiting officers also need at least two years of experience, proper training and physical fitness, and must come to town with radios, weapons and soft ballistic body armor.

If officers are hurt, their home agencies will have to cover workers’ compensation. “From the standpoint of the city taxpayers, I think that’s great,” said Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd.

But if they are sued for G-20-related actions, police officer liability insurance that the city is trying to purchase would kick in, according to the draft contract.

City Council may vote on the pact Friday, and Mr. Huss called it “very critical to our planning efforts.”

Elsewhere, state troopers stationed throughout Pennsylvania likely will work 12-hour shifts during the summit to make sure there is no gap in police protection, especially in rural areas that don’t have their own departments and rely on state police.

“There shouldn’t be any reduction in coverage,” Maj. Seilhamer said.

The agency will have additional civilian employees on hand in Pittsburgh, such as clerical staff and computer experts. It is also organizing meals and housing for troopers coming from outside Pittsburgh.

Maj. Seilhamer, who has been with the state police for nearly three decades, said the G-20 will be one of the largest assemblages of troopers since an inmate riot in 1989 at SCI Camp Hill.

At first, the state had offered to send just a few hundred troopers, but the number has continued to increase because other police departments, both in Pennsylvania and outside the state, have been slow to respond to a call from Chief Harper for assistance.

Through a spokesperson, Chief Harper said he was “very pleased” with the state police commitment of personnel and resources. But he declined to comment on commitments from other agencies.

Most police departments are concerned about financial reimbursement.

This month, the White House agreed to contribute $10 million up front, and the state will provide $6.3 million — a figure that includes a $1.8 million in-kind contribution of state police troopers.

About $9.5 million will go to pay out-of-town police.

Philadelphia is not planning to send any officers, but Pittsburgh officials are in conversations with departments in Baltimore and New York City.

Some smaller departments in the region are stepping up. The Allegheny County sheriff’s office has promised to make nearly half its deputies available for G-20 duty. Thirty have gone through riot control training with city officers, and another 45 will be in “reserve,” Sheriff William P. Mullen said yesterday.

McKeesport has said it will send 20 officers.

Mr. Dowd said that if the city needs more officers, it should consider calling on the 35 neighboring municipalities that are in the Congress of Neighboring Communities, a network set up last year to promote cooperation.

The G-20 has been designated a national special security event, placing the Secret Service in charge of security preparations.

The service is still developing the security perimeter for the convention center and other sites.

“The total amount of fencing and other barricade materials has not been finalized,” Special Agent Darrin Blackford said in an e-mail message. “We are closely working with our local law enforcement partners to create a safe and secure environment for event participants, dignitaries and the public, while accommodating Downtown residents and businesses as much as possible.”



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