St. Paul police chief gives assessment of RNC

Chief John Harrington
Days before the Republican National Convention, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington spoke at the Secret Service's Multi Agency Communications Center, a temporary facility set up for the convention.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington provided the City Council Wednesday with his first public assessment of police actions during last month's Republican National Convention.

Harrington told the council that the first day of the RNC was the most difficult, as his department struggled to coordinate communications and prevent property destruction.

But he said he's proud of the fact that no one was seriously injured. More than 800 people were arrested and he estimates about $69,000 in property damage.

"On balance, the tactics and the operations, and the way we did it, it worked. It was not as seamless as we would have liked it to have been. We learned stuff every day from the tactics we did and the interactions we had. There are things that in retrospect we will probably do differently," Harrington said.

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Harrington said in hindsight, he would have had a better system for identifying journalists and would have recruited more volunteer peacekeepers to control crowds.

John Harrington also said rogue protesters flung feces and urine at more than 100 police officers during last month's Republican National Convention.

He said on the second day of the RNC, some activists used outdoor portable toilets as sources of urine.

"The porta-potties, in fact, were having buckets put underneath the urinal in there. And then they were then filling those. So we'd see someone walk into one of the porta-potty by Mears Park that looked like he was standing upright and regular posture. And when he'd leave, he would be holding himself like he was having abdominal cramps," Harrington said.

Harrington said officers then took away the buckets of urine, and either released the activists or detained them if they were being uncooperative.

Some protesters dispute the police's version of events. Two post-RNC reports focusing on police efforts are underway.

He expects an official "after-action" report will be completed by the end of the year.