The Denver Police Department is using taxpayer money to buy new security equipment for the Democratic National Convention in August, and according to the city’s mayor’s office, information on what materials are being purchased and the costs will not be revealed until after the event.
The office, which is coordinating security for the convention with national and local law enforcement officials, says that revealing the equipment — including possible crowd control devices — would put the safety of the community at risk.In March, Colorado Confidential filed an open records request in an effort to obtain more information about new equipment that the Denver Police Department said it was purchasing in preparation for the event. The request was seeking procurement papers for the equipment, and not information on how such materials would be used.
The department later declined to disclose exactly what the purchases were, saying that revealing the information would be “contrary to the public interest.”
Now the mayor’s office is speaking on the issue, agreeing with the police that such information could be dangerous.
“It is a valid concern when you’re procuring equipment for security needs,” says Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, spokeswoman for Mayor John Hickenlooper. “To describe the details of that in advance poses an obvious risk that we’re not going subject our community to, nor are we required to do so.”
In St. Paul, Minn., where the Republican National Convention will be held in September, police have openly requested 230 Tasers for all department officers. The Tasers should arrive before the convention, creating speculation that they are being purchased for the event.
Information on the equipment will be made available after the convention, according to Eichenbaum Lent, who says that “we are required by the feds to provide a full accounting of how the [federal funds allocated for convention security] are spent.”
Demonstrators planning to protest the convention have voiced concern that the police could be purchasing Tasers or other “non-lethal” weapons to use as a method of crowd control:
Mark Cohen, a member of the organizing committee for the Recreate 68 Alliance, a coalition of groups that plan to demonstrate at the Democratic convention, released a statement saying that the group is very concerned about so-called “crowd control” and “less than lethal” weapons and equipment the police department may be purchasing in anticipation of protests, including Tasers and other sonic weapons that can be used to disperse crowds.
“Contrary to [the police department’s] statement, it is very much in the public interest for the people of Denver to know whether the Denver Police Department — which should be subject to civilian oversight in such matters — is planning to purchase such equipment with public funds for use on peaceful protesters,” said Cohen, who contended that Recreate 68 is planning to engage in peaceful and nonviolent protests during the convention.