No major crowds, no disruptive protests, and no terrorist threats — Amherst patrolman Michael Taliano said his time providing extra muscle during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was blissfully quiet.
After training and national security briefings, he was stationed from July 16 to 22 at the entrance of Hopkins International Airport, mainly for crowd control. A second Amherst patrolman, Jake Podrosky, was at the exit.
“You go into this thinking it was going to be a negative situation. But for us, where we were stationed, it was positive,” Taliano said.
There was a lot of confusion among visitors — police provided directions to a lot of lost folks — but very little in the way of threats.
Pedestrians were under extra scrutiny both outside and inside Hopkins. Taliano said no one was allowed to watch takeoffs and landings near the property fence. Police were on the watch for wayward bags that could contain explosives. And RNC-duty officers were told not to profile anyone, to instead keep careful eyes on people of all ages, races, nationalities, and genders.
Cleveland police led the safety efforts with a meticulous plan, combing the airport with drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs.
The only minor incident Taliano related came the first day of duty when a man with a Black Lives Matter cardboard sign brushed past police. Security determined he was harmless.
“Once in a while we got to walk into the airport and do some foot patrol,” Taliano said. “Over the radio you could hear all the radio traffic with the governor and politicians. There were celebrities flying in, too.”
Not all was excitement.
The ambush-style murder of three Baton Rouge police officers July 17 in Louisiana shook law enforcement nationwide.
The news reinforced old lessons about the need to always be focused, aware, and checking mirrors, Taliano said.
He also spoke of a public outpouring of support for police. “You probably couldn’t walk 100 feet without people giving you a nice wave,” he said, describing peace signs thrown his way, words of kindness, and thanks
The Amherst community has been especially supportive since the July 7 slaying of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, Taliano said. Residents have been calling with messages of support, sending food and supplies to officers.
At the end of a solid week of 12-hour shifts, he was still smiling as he talked Monday with the News-Times.
Part of that is due to his well-deserved post-RNC vacation. But Taliano was also enthusiastic about his experiences among “big city” officers and international visitors at Hopkins.
“Working in an airport, you come across every type of person and get more comfortable dealing with people” of all stripes, he said. “If you’re able to stop and talk with someone, with a total stranger, maybe you’ll make a difference for that person.”
Amherst police Lt. Mark Cawthon said there was no steep increase in crime here in town due to RNC traffic.
Officers here were “a little more vigilant for problems moving toward Cleveland” and time off was curtailed during the convention, he said. Routine patrols were beefed up.
“We just didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
In the lead-up to the convention, police chiefs all over Lorain County expressed concern over what traffic, protesters, lodgers, and campers could bring to the western edge of Greater Cleveland. They formed a task force to keep a watchful eye on hotels and other gathering places.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Amherst police officer Michael Taliano helped provide security at Hopkins International Airport during the Republic National Convention.