For the past year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents prepared for the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions in conjunction with their counterparts at the U.S. Secret Service, the lead federal law enforcement agency for these events.
"Most don't realize that securing a four-day event like the RNC takes months of preparation," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.
With a presidential nominee, and several high-profile elected officials in attendance, law enforcement agencies had to secure the entire area surrounding the both events. Individuals had to have specific credentials and undergo several checkpoint inspections when entering and exiting these areas.
During the RNC, HSI special agents were assigned to a variety of teams to support convention security. One group of HSI special agents was assigned to the Tampa International Airport, while others provided security for dignitaries attending the event. Many HSI special agents worked in undercover capacities within the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the location where most of the activities took place, and surrounding area. They were there as a precautionary measure in case any disruptions took place within the venue.
"If you scanned the area, you wouldn't see our agents," said McCormick. "I can confidently assure you, we were there, often working around the clock."
If an incident occurred, it was immediately prioritized and entered into a computer system that law enforcement representatives could access. From there, incident information was disseminated to the public through a joint information center, which was staffed by public affairs representatives from local, state and federal agencies.
At the DNC, HSI Charlotte special agents provided security for delegates, family members and visitors, ensured the safety of attendees at the various event venues and staffed the command center. Additionally, HSI Charlotte was the lead in the human trafficking operation, whose mission was to identify any potential sex trafficking victims, according to Delbert Richburg, special agent in charge of HSI Charlotte.
Both the 2012 RNC and DNC, fortunately, took place with very few incidents. McCormick and Richburg attribute this to effective planning, professionalism and coordination amongst law enforcement agencies.
"We could have had a very different outcome, but we were prepared. We were well equipped to handle a variety of scenarios with the ultimate mission of ensuring the safety of the convention's attendees," McCormick added.