Cover Story: Charlotte Convention Security

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte is a step closer to being able to pay the huge bill to provide security at next year's Democratic National Convention.

Congress moved a step closer to approving the $50 million it's going to cost the city.

There was some doubt all of this money would come through.

Supporters had a good case on their side, precedent and need, but given the current environment in Congress getting all the money was not a given.

There's nothing bigger than hosting a national political convention - other than maybe the Olympics.

It not only attracts tens of thousands of delegates and media.  But next year's Democratic Convention in Charlotte will have a sitting president, members of his Cabinet and hundreds of lawmakers.

And the price tag for security isn't cheap.

Chuck Plunkett knows.  He covered the convention for the Denver Post when the DNC was in Denver three years ago.

"You will feel like your city has been occupied by an invading army. There will be a police presence unlike anything you could imagine that swoops into town," he said.

Since the 9/11 terror attacks, convention security's had to go on steroids.

And in today's world conventions attract demonstrations.  Protesting groups know they'll get media coverage and may turn up the heat to make sure.

Says Dr. Karen Kedrowski, the chair of the Political Science Department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill:  "Tempers and emotions can still run very high.. which from a security standpoint makes people a little unpredictable."

Which can justify the security and drive up the price too.  $50 million is the going rate.  If a city were to be on the hook for those costs, few would want to host a political convention.

It's why for years Congress has picked up the tab.

But given the current cost-cutting in Washington the 50-million for Charlotte  and 50-million for Tampa - host of the Republican National Convention next year - was in question.

This week it was approved.

North Carolina Congressman David Price pushed for it.

"There were some financial pressures that made.. made it harder for us to be assured we would get this money. We pushed very hard for it. We got it. We're grateful for that. But there are no question that this was a harder lift.. a heavier lift than it was four years ago," says Price.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police expect to bring in maybe as many as 3,000 law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions to complement the cops here.

The $50 million will towards paying them, for training, and updating CMPD's security infrastructure.  $600,000 has already been poured into upgrading the downtown headquarters command center.

The security money ($50 million for Charlotte and $50 million for Tampa) is included in a bill before the U.S. House.  It's expected to be approved in the House and the Senate this week.

Each city had asked for $55 million, but $50 million is what Congress gave to Denver and St. Paul, MN for the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2008.

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