As security professionals gather this month for their own annual meeting in San Antonio, TX, they may wonder how Democrats recently handled security at the Democratic National Convention. Security is one of the biggest concerns at such an event, where the major players aren't always known ahead of time, and the candidates are vying for the highest elected office in the United States.
This summer, from July 13-16, the party convened at Madison Square Garden in New York City to adopt its platform and nominate Bill Clinton and Al Gore for the top spots on the national ticket. Securing the facility, the candidates, and the 30,000-plus attendees each day was the responsibility of US Security Inc. (USSI), a Bethesda, MD, security consulting firm. The task involved close coordination with the United States Secret Service, the New York police department (NYPD), and the local fire department.
Planning for the convention's security began with the bid process about a year and a half ago. USSI specializes in event security, and its three principals--J. Peter Rush, Gerald T. Vento, and John R. Smith--all had prior convention experience. Rush and Smith are both retired Secret Service agents, and Vento is a former special assistant to the President.
Planning officially began in the fall of 1991. USSI first met with the NYPD and Secret Service, according to Rush.
A problem arose immediately concerning who would provide the convention security inside Madison Square Garden. Rush wanted to hire a contract security firm, but the Garden's specific union rules mandated that USSI use a union--local 177.
"We were forced to use a union," Rush says, "It was not an optimal situation, mainly because they failed to provide adequate personnel." In the end, Rush estimates that he had an average of 220 individuals on hand per day.
Security began outside the building. "We had an outer perimeter," Rush explains. "We had an entire city block--from 31st to 33rd Streets and from 7th to 8th Avenues--cordoned off with security barricades." A complex pass, printed and distributed by the Democratic National Committee, allowed media, security personnel, delegates, guests, and Garden employees inside the barricades.
The NYPD had authority over the area outside the Garden, but the complex pass only allowed access up to the outside of the building. A separate pass was needed to enter the building itself. For example, while more than 20,000 passes were issued to media people alone, 5,000 of those individuals weren't allowed inside the Garden.
To protect the building itself, "we had seven exits covered by magnetometers and X-ray equipment," Rush says. The exits were staffed by Secret Service personnel along with Garden security personnel. …