Alastair Boone is the editor-in-chief of Street Spirit and a former editorial fellow at CityLab.
Greg Stanton says his police are prepared to work overtime. But that is not without a cost to the city.
Trump’s rally in Phoenix, Arizona, will move forward as expected on Tuesday night. But not without the vocal objections of the city’s own mayor, Greg Stanton.
“America is hurting,” Stanton wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post Tuesday morning, “And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”
Stanton’s column followed another, earlier call for Trump to cancel his rally after the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville—a warning that several observers called deeply unusual.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody ask the president to postpone their visit, anywhere,” said Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD Detective Sergeant and an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Given what we’ve learned from the president, I don’t think he’s going to heed anybody’s advice on that front. He’s coming, they should just be prepared for that.”
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley agrees. “Usually a president coming to your town is an economic boon, and it’s something all elected officials welcome,” he told The Washington Post. “What’s unusual about Phoenix is you have an elected official publicly begging the president not to come to his town.”
Stanton was particularly concerned that Trump planned to use tonight’s rally to pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who was convicted of racial profiling by a federal judge in July. Just days before announcing his rally in Phoenix, Trump told Fox News that he was “seriously considering” such a pardon. “The timing doesn’t seem coincidental,” Stanton wrote.
Even if the president does not pardon Arpaio on Tuesday night, many anticipate that his rally will end in violence—as others have before it. Already, 4,000 anti-Trump demonstrators are scheduled to gather downtown, and a handful of other protest groups plan to congregate around the Phoenix Convention Center, where the event will be held. There are a number of unofficial pro-Trump gatherings scheduled for Tuesday evening as well.
Stanton noted that his own police department would be working overtime to ensure public safety. But that is not without a cost to the city.
Normally, the president reimburses a city for the security required to host such an event. But Trump has a history of skirting his municipal debts. Many cities have complained that Trump has not paid his police protection bills. In September, Tucson’s city attorney wrote to remind the Trump administration that the president still owed the city $81,837 after a rally he held in March—a bill which he has yet to pay.
This comes on the heels of reports that the president’s large family and constant travel has depleted the Secret Service budget, raising attrition rates and accruing overtime that the agency cannot afford to pay.
What does it take for a municipal police department to prepare for a presidential event? In the lead-up to Trump’s rally tonight, the Phoenix police department has been working with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department, the Department for Public Safety, the County Attorney’s Office, the Secret Service, and the National Guard. All of this is to ensure that there will be appropriate protection for the rally’s attendees, and enough manpower left over to police the rest of the city. And that’s not to mention the overtime hours the city will need to pay the city police on duty.
Despite these additional costs, the Phoenix police department is confident that security will be tight at Trump’s rally Tuesday night. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this” police chief Jeri Williams said at a press conference on Monday. “We’ve been prepared for other presidential visits… they’ve been well managed, and I have no doubt that this will be anything different.”
Indeed, additional protection is standard for any planned event of this size, said Williams. At the press conference on Monday, she noted that the same multi-organizational cooperation is required for all large-scale events in Phoenix, such as the 2015 Super Bowl.
But many have speculated that Trump’s rallies cause greater strain than usual. “I think the president is so polarizing that everywhere he goes you have to prepare for this mass demonstration,” said Giacalone. “There’s a lot to learn from Charlottesville about what you can expect.”