MANCHESTER, NH — Thursday’s “Keep America Great” campaign rally planned for 7 p.m. at the SNHU Arena could draw a capacity crowd, and that’s how the arena management company is handling their end of the security, according to Assistant General Manager Jason Perry.
Just like any other sell-out event.
“We have always paid for inside security and we’ll still hire a certain number of police officers inside, which is standard operating procedure for us,” Perry said. For a campaign visit, that means the cost of any police hired by SMG for inside security to handle a crowd of up to 11,000 will be billed to Trump’s campaign.
“We will work with the city to control what happens inside the arena, but anything from a security measure required under the protocol for a sitting president is above and beyond the scope of what we do. That is all handled by Secret Service,” Perry said.
As per its contract with the city, SMG will also absorb the cost of three police officers who standardly provide services outside the arena.
Any additional security – and it will be massive – comes out of the city’s police budget.
Increased security to the city can include additional police and fire staff, overtime for security, traffic control, equipment including barricades, or any utility costs. Assistant Police Chief Ryan Grant has said it is standard procedure that city police do not bill a sitting president for such costs., and there is some allowance within the police budget for overtime expenses of NH Primary events.
But when a presidential visit is compounded by the potential for supporters and detractors to clash, the need for — and cost of — police presence is impossible to predict.
In this case, there are already at least two counter-protests planned on Thursday, one at City Hall and the other directly across the street from the arena, prior to the 7 p.m. campaign event.
Whatever level of preparedness and security Manchester Police determines is warranted will come from their budget, which means increased security is ultimately on the taxpayer’s dime.
Public’s safety is No. 1 priority
Presidential visits to the city are not unusual, especially every four years during the NH Primary campaign season, and so it shouldn’t be a case of sticker shock, no matter what the cost.
“The mayor has talked with both the police and fire chiefs and they are following normal protocols for presidential visits,” said Mayor Craig’s chief of staff Ryan Mahoney on Monday. “The police department would determine what’s best and it could come out of their budget at their discretion.”
Assistant Chief Grant on Tuesday said while cost around this event has been a topic of discussion, his job is to protect the city and its citizens, period.
“Our number-one priority is Friday morning rolls around and everyone had a safe and enjoyable time in the city,” Grant said. “The cost is the cost and at the end of the day, there’s no number we put on the safety of the public.”
When the arena agrees to host an event, the city can’t opt out; it must be prepared for whatever comes next. Grant is hesitant to compare Trump’s Aug. 15 visit to any previous visits – by Trump or any other sitting president – or to release associated costs of those police services.
“We’re in completely different times,” Grant said, alluding to recent acts of gun violence around the country in crowded streets and public events. “If we release the numbers on what it costs it would be easy for someone to figure out what resources we put out there,” and that could put police in a vulnerable situation should there be someone interested in subverting security measures.
Ever since the Trump campaign rally was announced, Manchester Police Department has been mapping out a security plan based on intelligence gathered internally, and from a number of sources including FBI and Secret Service, as well as police and command staff around the country who’ve recently hosted other Trump events.
“We base our response on that intelligence, including our own, and we continue to gather that information. We’re in full preparation mode, and people should see an increase in police presence starting in the next 24 hours in response to that information. We’re paying close attention as things evolve and will respond in real-time,” Grant said.
City’s evolving community policing efforts
Meanwhile, the city continues to adjust its police resources — in May, Chief Carlo Capano reassigned three patrol officers to Community Policing for the summer to walk the beat and visibly increase the number of officers assigned to the downtown.
In June, Capano addressed the Board of Aldermen about an overtime deficit, explaining he had a $348,000 budget surplus due to several unfilled openings on his staff. He cited unexpected retirements and resignations as the primary reasons for the surplus — which directly impacts his overtime budget, overspent at that point by $226,000 — in part, due to beefing up foot patrols and regular patrols in the downtown at the city’s request. Capano estimated in June that the cost of overtime payout was about $6,000 every two weeks.
And on Aug. 6, Aldermen unanimously approved a motion to allow Capano to hire up to five more officers, over and above the city’s current “full complement” which is 237 officers. Although the cost of five additional officers is within the budget, Mayor Craig said there is the potential that the increase in personnel may exceed the budget. It all depends on how resources are allocated between now and then, including Thursday’s event, which will expend regular and overtime resources.
At the same time, hiring five full-time officers would also decrease the need for overtime expenditures, reducing the projected cost of police coverage which currently is reliant on overtime. That means, following the upcoming police entrance exam, set for Aug. 24, Capano could hire up to 10 new officers – depending on how many make it through the rigors.
According to Grant, Manchester Police will be involved with Trump’s Thursday visit to New Hampshire, from before Air Force One touches down at the airport until liftoff, once the event ends.
“Whenever we have someone here under Secret Service protection we work with them to ensure that person’s safety, as well as the public,” Grant said.
As a reminder to the public, the SNHU Arena has a strict no-weapons policy, and screening will be heightened by additional security measures enforced by Secret Service, both inside and outside the arena. You can review the arena’s policy on what can and can’t be carried into the arena here.