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For security, local agencies pitch in

Police, sheriff, state patrol back up Secret Service during visits like Biden’s

November 2, 2012
By PETER KASPARI, , Messenger News

When Vice President Joe Biden came to Fort Dodge Thursday, many agencies worked together to make sure the visit went off without any problems.

Among those faced with that task were members of local law enforcement that protect the people of Fort Dodge, Webster County and the surrounding areas.

The Fort Dodge Police Department, Webster County Sheriff's Department and Iowa State Patrol, along with reserves and police from outlying small towns, teamed up to enhance security during the vice president's visit.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Fort Dodge Police Lt. Dennis Mernka keeps an eye on the crowd inside the Fort Museum Opera House Thursday during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden. Local law enforcement agencies are called on by the U.S. Secret Service to help with security during such visits.

That security began days before Biden stepped foot in Fort Dodge.

"Typically, we find out about the visit around five days in advance," Iowa State Patrol Lt. Kelly Hindman said. "At that point, the work becomes immediate. We don't wait around. We dig right into our plans."

Kevin Doty, assistant Fort Dodge police chief, said planning sessions include numerous meetings with the United States Secret Service.

"They talk about what they would like local law enforcement to help them with, and go over all our plans," he said.

Webster County Sheriff Brian Mickelson said making preparations for an important visitor can be time-consuming.

"There were so many meetings and a lot to go over and a lot to go through," he said. "But they come in with enough time so we can work things through and get things worked to their satisfaction for the safety of everybody coming in."

Mickelson said the Secret Service usually approaches law enforcement with the requests for security.

"They'll come in and request X amount of resources and we try to fill those spots the best we can," he said.

When Biden came to Fort Dodge, Doty said there were anywhere between 40 to 50 officers from multiple departments on duty. None of those officers were regularly scheduled to work during the vice president's visit.

"When we have somebody like the vice president coming, we still maintain our numbers on the street to answer our normal calls," he said. "That also goes for the sheriff's department and the highway patrol. We just bring in extra people that normally would be off."

Hindman added that when it came to Biden, the Secret Service handled most of the vice president's personal security.

"We don't have a lot of dealings with the dignitaries themselves," Hindman said. "Law enforcement typically covers the perimeter areas. We make sure the airport is secure and safe, and most of the motorcade is handled by local law enforcement. "

That includes setting up traffic control points so the motorcade isn't interrupted, according to Hindman.

"Secret Service takes care of the inner security, and the involvement of law enforcement is more broad," he said. "We use the example of a circle. We're not in the middle, but as it gets broader we're more prevalent."

The cost to the taxpayer depends on the department, according to Hindman.

In the case of the Iowa State Patrol, he said taxpayers shouldn't be concerned with cost.

"We have comp time, so the cost to us is those officers that are working would simply take time off at another time," he said. "There's no direct financial cost for our involvement, which is why you see so many troopers involved, because we can do it with such a little dollar cost."

Doty said that in the case of the FDPD, such visits are taxpayer-funded.

"Our people that are called in to work are paid overtime," Doty said.

To his knowledge, the department isn't reimbursed with federal money.

Local law enforcement officials believe Thursday's event went very well in terms of security.

"It just makes things run so smoothly when everybody sits down and plans where everybody is going to be," Mickelson said. "We do this on major investigations too. We delegated spots to everybody, and it just went so seamlessly."

Doty said the event was successful.

"We didn't have any real problems at all," he said, "and that's really the way you want it to go."

Hindman agreed.

"We want it to be a completely unmemorable stop," Hindman said. "You don't want to be the town that people remember."



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