City Hall: Milwaukee Seeks RNC Police HQ, Mobile Command Post » Urban Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is looking to find a temporary headquarters for the thousands of officers that will guard the 2024 Republican National Convention and to acquire a mobile command post to deploy at any hot spots.

A request for proposals (RFP) is currently open for a 100,000-square-foot “operations center,” which MPD would lease from February through August. The actual convention occurs from July 15-18.

Approximately 4,000 outside officers are expected to supplement MPD officers during what is known as a National Special Security Event. A federal grant is expected to cover the security costs of the event, but Congress has yet to act on a request to increase the grant amount from $50 million to $75 million.

The 2020 Democratic National Convention police headquarters was to be split between two locations, the former Wisconsin Avenue School (2708 W. Wisconsin Ave.) and a former We Energies facility (2425 S. 35th St.). But the effort was downscaled amid the pandemic.

The 2020 locations were desired because they were outside of the hard-security perimeter downtown. The Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St., will safely be within the currently-undisclosed perimeter. The 2020 locations were described as places to store equipment and quickly move officers in and out of.

The 2024 RFP indicates the same is sought this year.

“The facility must be in the Greater Milwaukee area to allow for a rapid response to the RNC operational areas in downtown Milwaukee. Parking lot space should be equipped with lights, allow for the ingress and egress of semi-trucks with trailers, and must accommodate a large fleet of vehicles including buses. The property should be secured or able to be secured with fencing and a surveillance camera system.”

Real estate investor Brian Monroe is already publicly confirmed to be working with the City of Glendale to use a property at 4160 N. Port Washington Rd. as a RNC police headquarters.

Out-of-town officers would be housed at area colleges based on RFP responses. The city’s website says a contract has yet to be formally awarded, but two different RFPs drew responses from Concordia University Wisconsin Lutheran College, UW-Whitewater, UW-Green Bay, UW-Parkside, UW-Madison, Mount Mary UniversityCarroll University and the Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Mobile Command Post

MPD also hopes to use the convention security grant as a way to replace its mobile command post, and keep the new vehicle after the convention.

The vehicle, a high-tech, heavily-modified RV, would cost $1.3 million. It was identified through a RFP process, which drew a single response from Burlington-based LDV, Inc.

“We do currently have a command post that is grossly outdated,” said MPD chief of staff Heather Hough on Wednesday to the Public Safety & Health Committee. “I would say that is an understatement.” The vehicle is 15 years old and seven years beyond its expected useful life.

Hough said MPD officials must use cellphone hotspots, separate from the truck’s infrastructure, to access body camera footage and that the stabilizers to support the vehicle are failing. “It would certainly cost far more to repair,” said the chief of staff.

“We believe that this is an expense that is necessary for a safe and successful RNC,” said Hough. She said MPD tried to borrow a command post from other departments, but was denied. The vehicles MPD could possibly use is limited, said the chief of staff, because it must connect with the city’s OpenSky public safety radio system.

The city must front the cash to buy the vehicle and be reimbursed. MPD would receive $50,000 for returning the existing vehicle to LDV.

Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic expressed concern that the purchase wasn’t brought up through the normal budget process.

“This feels like a militarization just for a few days,” said the alderwoman.

She expressed concern that much was being made about public safety, but little about free-speech rights for people to lawfully protest.

“It feels like there is a hyper concentration on one side and not the other,” said Dimitrijevic.

Ald. Khalif Rainey asked how MPD planned to use the command post in the future, referencing the 2016 Sherman Park unrest, and if MPD was in communication with other cities about how the command post would be used during the convention. MPD officials said it would be deployed as the current command post is, which includes moving it to every major incident.

“Our staff has been in direct contract with all of the prior cities that have held these types of events with how to police and manage them,” said MPD budget and administration manager Laura Engan.

The committee recommended the expenditure, with only Dimitrijevic in opposition.

“I will think about it between now and the Common Council,” said the alderwoman.

Responses to the operations center RFP are due Jan. 16. The Common Council is expected to vote on the mobile command center funding request on Jan. 17.

More contracts for items big and small are likely coming for the RNC, with police in 2020 seeking a large amount of trail mix or Gatorade alongside pepper spray and a tear-gas-deploying battering ram. The Milwaukee Fire Department already issued requests for several items.

Source: City Hall: Milwaukee Seeks RNC Police HQ, Mobile Command Post » Urban Milwaukee

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