Election 2020

Doubts About Security at GOP Convention May Doom the Event

(Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

The sheriff of Duval County, Fla., Mike Williams, is casting doubt on the prospects of holding any kind of a Republican convention in Jacksonville next month, saying he can’t provide security for the event due to “a lack of clear plans, adequate funding and enough law enforcement officers.”

“As we’re talking today, we are still not close to having some kind of plan that we can work with that makes me comfortable that we’re going to keep that event and the community safe,” he said.


“It’s not my event to plan, but I can just tell you that what has been proposed in my opinion is not achievable right now … from a law enforcement standpoint, from a security standpoint.”

The controversy deals one of the biggest potential blows to President Donald Trump’s decision to hold an in-person nominating convention during a pandemic. The proposal has already been beset by concerns over safety and reports of high-profile Republicans declining to attend.

Part of the problem appears to be that the Republican National Committee has yet to finalize a schedule so they can inform law enforcement of what events need security. Williams, a Republican, wants to be accommodating, but he has other problems as well.

In early July, the Florida Sheriffs Association asked departments in the state’s 67 counties for 2,000 officers, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. But only 500 were able to go, Bob Gualtieri, president of the association and Pinellas County Sheriff told POLITICO over the weekend. Williams also asked the Florida Police Chiefs Association for help, but he’s still coming up short.

“We do need law enforcement officers and we’ve gotten commitments, but not to the level that we thought we needed. And a lot of that is people having virus concerns from their communities, and I understand that,” Williams said.

“But there’s a lot of things that need to happen: an event schedule nailed down, and being able to sign contracts and spend money so that we can prepare for this event. And none of that has happened yet,” he said. “So here we are inside of 40 days, and I haven’t really pulled the trigger on anything RNC-related when it comes to finances or contracts and so, you know, only related to security, mind you, nothing, nothing related to any of this.”

You have to believe some of the reluctance to send officers from other jurisdictions has to do with the hysteria over police brutality and the certainty that antifa, Black Lives Matter, and every radical leftist organization in the country are going to descend on Jacksonville looking to provoke incidents to embarrass Trump.

There could very well be more “protesters” in Jacksonville than members of the Republican Party. It doesn’t sound as if Sheriff Williams has enough officers to do the job. And even with an augmented security force of Secret Service, FBI, and Homeland Security, the routine security tasks that are vital to keeping everyone safe would still have to be performed by local law enforcement.

The RNC is insisting the event go forward, so I’m sure Williams will be able to cobble something together. But it’s going to be improvised and disorganized, which doesn’t bode well for a successful and safe convention.