What is a National Special Security Event?
The 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) is a National Special Security Event (NSSE). This means that security will be coordinated by a number of federal agencies, rather than the Cleveland Police alone. The U.S. Secret Service Major Events Division will design and direct a master security plan in partnership with local law enforcement. Additionally, partner federal agencies will likely be involved in planning and overseeing the event, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration will oversee air control, and likely institute strict airspace regulations. Additionally, Cleveland will contract with other agencies for security purposes.
The NSSE designation comes with $50 million to pay for heightened security measures, including expanded law enforcement and surveillance. Measures used in the past include:
- Less-lethal ammunition. Weapons are named “less-lethal” when the government does not consider them deadly (e.g., guns, bombs), even though they can cause death. These weapons include rubber or wooden bullets, Tasers, tear gas, sound amplifiers, bean bags, sting ball grenades, pepper spray, physical or hand-to-hand force, and other devices. Less-lethal weapons are commonly used at these events.
- Free speech zones. Security plans often include zones or pens to contain protesters. These tend to be small enclosures where law enforcement can monitor demonstrations and control their volume and size. Constitutionally, a designated speech area should, at minimum, allow the protesters’ messages to reach the target audience.
- Security perimeters around the event. Generally, there are two levels of security perimeter; one restricted to the NSSE attendees, and the other is open to individuals employed within the perimeter but not the public.
These large security grants from the federal government also allow cities to purchase military grade equipment of questionable value in policing municipalities, referred to as militarization. An over-reliance on high performance weaponry means less effort is made to provide speech venues and employ tactics that avoid confrontations.