Durham’s city manager says it’s unlikely he will recommend sending Durham police officers to Charlotte to help with security during the 2020 Republican National Convention.
During the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, more than 2,800 officers from North Carolina and across the country helped the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department, including officers from Durham.
City Manager Tom Bonfield on Monday offered two reasons for likely recommending that Durham sit out this time. Durham police have plenty of demands that keep them busy at home, he said. And he suspects that policing the convention could be difficult for officers.
“I think there’s a high likelihood that the officers are going to be put in some pretty difficult exposures,” he said. “It’s just not worth it to us to have to do that.”
Bonfield has spoken generally with the Charlotte city manager regarding the convention, he said. But Durham has not yet received an official request from Charlotte asking for police.
Bonfield would consult further with Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis if Durham receives a request, he said. “I would want to hear from the chief,” Bonfield said. “We’ve talked generally about it, but I don’t think I would be recommending that we send anybody down.”
When asked if this would be violating a norm of nearby city police departments helping each other out, Bonfield said such decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis. This would not be the first time Durham opted not to send their officers to another community, he stressed.
When protests over the Silent Sam confederate statue on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill campus flared, Durham was asked to help out but declined to send officers, he said. “We didn’t want to put our officers in a problem,” Bonfield said. “Every situation is different and every circumstance is different depending on what’s going on.”
Chapel Hill police chief Chris Blue has said that policing months of intense protests near that statute, which was removed in August 2018, took physical and emotional tolls on officers.
Like it did for the 2012 Democratic Convention, the Department of Homeland Security has classified next year’s Republican Convention a National Special Security Event. Such events, which include presidential inaugurations and the Super Bowl, are considered prime targets for multiple types of security threats, including terrorism and crime.
Some on the ground in Charlotte expect keeping the peace there next August may be tougher than it was in 2012, when Democrats nominated former President Barack Obama to run for a second term.
In a recent video report, longtime North Carolina political reporter Jim Morrill said street protests during the Republican National Convention could well be more intense than they were in 2012.
“The protests themselves were pretty subdued. I don’t think that would be the same thing in 2020, not with the Republican convention here and the likelihood that President Trump would be renominated,” he said.
Neither Chief Davis nor a spokeswoman for the Durham Police Department responded to multiple calls inquiring about this issue.
At top: Protesters block an intersection in Charlotte during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Photo from Voice of America