Private security ramps up in Cleveland before GOP comes to town

Flanked by members of the Secret Service, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Ron Jenkins | Getty Images

It won't just be public officers keeping the peace when the Republican National Convention kicks off in Cleveland next week.

Private firms will augment such law enforcement agencies as the Cleveland Police Department and the Secret Service as organizers and local businesses seek to bolster security amidst fears raised by recent shootings in Dallas and Orlando.

Especially as the GOP prepares to crown a presidential nominee — Donald Trump — who has become known for emotionally charged rallies and protests, private firms are expected to see a whirlwind of business.

A former Cleveland police officer, Peter J. Miragliotta, is CEO of Tenable Protective Services, one of the main providers of security within the convention area. Miragliotta, whose company is working with federal and local forces, said he has hired an additional 150 personnel in preparation for the convention. Tenable will mainly be guarding buildings and checking credentials and providing support for media organizations including NBC.

"You need additional support because you don't want to tie up public officers on warehouses," Miragliotta said.

He described the convention as the most logistically complicated event Tenable has handled and said his company is providing increased training as it staffs up and prepares for what will be quite the week.

"Our resources are somewhat stretched, but not to the point where we're going to break," Miragliotta said. "It's that crazy excitement, my management has all got their air mattresses in and cots in."

Tenable is not alone in experiencing stretched staffing levels. Metro Cleveland Security, a private company based in Cleveland, is still receiving requests for business even though its 450 guards are already booked during the convention.

"I am totally totally wiped out," said Terry Zacharyj, the firm's operations manager. "My friends that also own security companies, they are booked."

Zacharyj, whose company will provide guards for high-rises and office buildings, said he expects $500,000 in revenue during the week of the convention "without a doubt." He added that his firm is there to serve as backup for the police, and he has mainly handled requests for unarmed guards.

Along with Tenable and Metro Cleveland, other private firms will likely be involved in security for the convention. The Republican Convention's spring media walk-through guide lists local and national private security firms available to the media.

The presence of private firms does not mark a new development in Republican conventions. They also played a role during the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Florida. But with the national mood on edge by recent events, and a presumptive nominee in Trump who has inspired his fair share of protests, the city is mobilizing for an event that will see tens of thousands of delegates and media members descend.

Cleveland's Police Department requested assistance from other agencies as it sought to boost its numbers to around 4,000 sworn officers, according to public documents. Scores of state troopers from Wisconsin and Michigan will assist local security forces.

Previously, the city projected spending $20 million on security equipment and supplies. The department, along with others working with the convention, has also recently launched a designated tip line.

A spokesperson for the convention said that while convention planners are taking note of the recent events, they have been preparing for over a year and are working with a number of local and federal partners.