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Ready for Anything: An Inside Look at Police Preparations for Last Sunday's Protests

By Teresa Rochester

For two months Santa Monica's 200-member police force practiced running through a house filled with tear gas, rehearsed maintaining a steely demeanor as volunteer protesters taunted and threw objects and brushed up on the First Amendment.

The unusual training was part of an unprecedented effort to anticipate anything - from massive riots to urine filled balloons -- that might have come their way during last Sunday's protests on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

But while Sunday's demonstrations were peaceful and the number of protesters fell far short of 10,000 the City prepared for - they numbered between 1,200 and 1,500 - police said the extensive preparations were necessary to ensure the safety of residents, protesters and the high profile government officials staying in Santa Monica.

"This was not going to be one of these things where we get out there with the equipment and hope for the best," said Police Chief James T. Butts Jr. in an exclusive interview with The Lookout. "Squad integrity was critical for an event of this magnitude. We anticipated we would be vastly outnumbered and therefore it was important at all times to act as a team."

Police went on modified deployment on Friday and on tactical alert Sunday and will continue working 12-hour days until Thursday evening when the convention ends, Butts said. The final costs of the preparations and personnel will not be known until after the operation concludes.
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