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Security in Cleveland for GOP convention likely ramping up, expert says

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(CLEVELAND) — Hundreds if not thousands of law enforcement officers from federal, state and local teams are expected to be in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, but that may not be enough to handle the “challenging” environment, some experts have said.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who was previously the chairman of a White House policing task force, said that it’s going to be “very, very challenging to handle” the conventions, he said on “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think they’re going to [take place] without some incident taking place,” Ramsey said on the show.

ABC News’ request for comment from the Cleveland Police Department Monday was not immediately returned, but the department was previously slated to hold a security briefing tomorrow, less than a week ahead of the start of the convention. That briefing was scheduled before a pair of controversial police-involved shootings across in two states and before five police officers were killed by gunfire in Dallas on Thursday night.

John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security acting under-secretary, who was involved in the planning of the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, said that “security concerns would be heightened even more” as a result of the events of the past week.

“They’re going to be concerned with anarchists and others joining peaceful protests related to the convention and turning those events into opportunity to destroy property and injure people,” said Cohen, who is now an ABC News consultant.

“They’re also going to be concerned about the potential for violent attacks against police officers who are providing security at the convention,” he said.

Police preparedness in Cleveland

Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams released a statement last week noting that the department is ready to handle security at the convention.

He said the Cleveland police have worked closely with local, state and federal law enforcement in preparing for the convention “to ensure that the highest safety standards are maintained.”

No specific numbers have been released on how many officers will be on call during the convention, though Williams said that approximately one third of the police department will be assigned to cover convention-related duties. The City of Cleveland’s official website reports that there are more than 1,600 officers on the city’s police force.

“Throughout the course of planning for the RNC, our officers have undergone hours of training relative to many subjects,” Williams said in the statement. In earlier statements, the Cleveland mayor’s office noted that police were undergoing training sessions relating to use of force, freedom of assembly free speech and reasonable search and seizure.

New equipment has been purchased for officers, including 300 bicycles that “are outfitted specifically for law enforcement purposes,” though no further details about those bikes were released.

In addition to the bike patrols, officers will be making foot, motorcycle and mounted patrols of the city, according to a “preparedness plan” released by Cleveland city officials in late May.

Restricting some items, but not all guns

The Buckeye State allows for open carry of handguns without a license, meaning that it will be legal to have firearms outside the convention hall.

There was a petition for open carry to be allowed inside the convention hall, but that was ultimately vetoed by the Secret Service.

The City of Cleveland issued a list of items that are banned from the area immediately surrounding the convention hall, including paintball guns, BB guns, sabers, fireworks, pepper spray, drones, umbrellas with metal tips, glass bottles, tennis balls and backpacks of a certain size among other items.

Turning their attention upwards

The Federal Aviation Administration will be issuing temporary flight restrictions over the area around the RNC that are “designed to provide a safe and secure environment for the event.”

The FAA has said that only aircraft with filed flight plans and maintaining two-way radio communication with air-traffic control may fly within the extended area around the convention.

Model aircraft, drones and model rocketry will all be prohibited throughout the entire restricted airspace, as will be banner towing, crop dusting, hang gliding, or balloon flights, among other things.

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