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Tampa’s assistant police chief avoids conflict with protesters by talking – would his tactics work in larger, more volatile protest situations?

Tampa Bay Police Assistant Chief John Bennett.
Tampa Bay Police Assistant Chief John Bennett.

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As the Democratic Convention gets underway in Charlotte, law enforcement braces for the security challenges of tens of thousands of delegates, guests, politicians and protesters. Convention organizers must be anxious to repeat Tampa’s success.

Officials there are pleased with their RNC performance – only two convention-related arrests in a week of Republican business and many planned protests. It wasn’t just the rain, either. The Tampa Police Department is pointing to the master negotiation skills of assistant chief John Bennett. He sat with protesters, brought them food and water, and facilitated a wider protest zone, without posing risk to GOP security.

What tactics did he find especially effective? How can other police forces emulate the success? And what about normal protest settings, when the National Guard and Secret Service aren’t also at the ready?


John Bennett, Assistant Police Chief, Tampa Police Department