The Ramsey County sheriff has prepared a $4.4 million budget for security during the 2008 Republican National Convention, with a plan to handle the arrests of as many as 3,000 protesters.
Sheriff Bob Fletcher's proposal includes money for a possible open-air, fenced detention facility next to the county workhouse, riot equipment and Tasers, and $1.7 million for officers' overtime.
Boston and New York City, which hosted the national political conventions in 2004, prepared for similar numbers of arrests but wound up arresting fewer. Fletcher said things could be different in 2008.
"The tenor of the country's feelings about the war in Iraq is different than it was four years ago," Fletcher said.
Planning for 3,000 arrests drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union in Minnesota. Charles Samuelson, the group's executive director, said he was concerned that the number might be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
St. Paul police Commander Joe Neuberger rejected that. Ramsey County simply needed a number to start with, he said.
"Our goal is to arrest no one," he said.
St. Paul police are primarily responsible for arrests, with the sheriff's office responsible for handling prisoners. Fletcher said the proposed expenses were to make sure "we treat the detainees with dignity and respect."
Fletcher said he hoped the county's security costs would be covered through a $50 million federal convention security appropriation pending in Congress. His proposal may go to the county board by late summer.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Department hasn't yet been asked to develop a convention budget, Sheriff Rich Stanek said. He said he didn't know of any estimates of protest arrests in Minneapolis.