This past week while the GOP held their convention in Tampa, something truly amazing happened -- well, didn't happen. The massive protests and violence that were predicted, based upon the angry mood of the country, Occupy demonstrations and encampments nationwide, and of course, past history of senseless violence seen at previous conventions, just didn't happen in here in Tampa. Folks are already scratching their heads and theories are likely to abound regarding underlying causations, statistical data, and every manner of analytical scrutiny.
Yes, Hurricane Isaac skirted the Florida coast and gave the city and RNC planners a big scare, prompting the cancellation of day one. Yes, we had thousands of officers from all over Florida, along with federal law enforcement, and even National Guard Troops, patrolling our city. Yes, we were prepared.
I submit to you that Tampa had a secret weapon, more powerful than any well-armed force, ultra-rich conservatives, or devious anarchist hell bent on destruction and violence to incite the masses. Tampa has L-Chief. (Yes, L, just like The L Word). Who knew prior to this convention, that protestors could be handled with dignity and compassion? Dropping off water at a protest encampment? Allowing "minor" violations to go on without heavy-handed responses? Permitting unscripted protests to continue, when clearly the police could easily shut them down? What kind of commie ideas are these? I'll tell you. They are smart policing ideas, L-Chief style.
Listen, I've been a cop for a couple of decades, and fully understand use of force. There are truly bad people in our society, but all good cops know that there must be a balance. Police officers see so much negative information about the evil protesters who are coming to attack them with all manner of weapons (including super soakers filled with AIDS-tainted-body fluids), and who seek to obliterate the very fabric of everything we hold dear as Americans. All of the truly bad people I spoke of above concentrated in a protest bloc.
So, it's no wonder we cops get all amped up for battle. Who wouldn't? But, our chief maintained that citizens would be allowed to protest as long as they didn't cross the line into unlawful behavior. That was a great plan, and often such ideas are difficult to put into practice. Many times crowd control situations get out of hand when a couple of troublemakers bait law enforcement into an unnecessary response. Then chaos ensues. L-Chief didn't let that happen, and the measure of success was the empty Hillsborough County Jail that had been set aside for dealing with RNC arrests.
Back to the debate that has no doubt already begun regarding all the reasons the RNC in Tampa was so uneventful, protest-wise. All of the factors will be examined, and when they dissect every component, I hope they don't overlook one subtle, but powerful fact: L-Chief was everywhere. She welcomed GOP delegates and big-name politicians, held court at press conferences, hung out with protestors, and grinned all the while. "If you treat people with dignity and respect, that's what you're going to get in return," Castor said. Heck, the chief even won over reporters. Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times wrote:
But this week protesters have regularly approached Tampa police Chief Jane Castor -- presumably a symbol of Authority, the Oppressor, head of the very police state they rail against -- and asked to take a photo with her. And except for one person dressed as a very graphic lady part, the chief has obliged -- a rock star even in a city providing a stage to an America divided.
Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, being a woman and a lesbian was the intangible difference that calmed the masses? The L-Chief is always gracious in giving credit to the hard work of the officers under her command, and will likely shrug off the significance of the L in L-chief. That's fine. But, I don't care what anyone says, I'm sticking to my theory, L-Chief cast a spell of calm on all sides of this RNC, and once again, the LGBT community has a shining star. This one wears a badge.
Thanks for reading ~ LM
This post was originally published on Lynette's blog.