There were no earth-shattering revelations in a much-anticipated report presented Wednesday to the St. Paul City Council on security during the Republican National Convention.
The report, prepared by a seven-member commission led by former federal prosecutors Tom Heffelfinger and Andy Luger, cited a few "areas of concerns" and some that warrant further review, but concluded that by and large, the convention was a success.
More than 800 people were arrested during the convention Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center. But events inside the Xcel Center went off with nary a hitch.
Critics accused police of making unnecessary arrests and using excessive force. But Mayor Chris Coleman and others hailed the event, saying it put St. Paul on the world stage.
Before Wednesday's presentation, Coleman praised public safety employees for performing "yeoman's work" during the convention. But there are clear concerns, he said, which was why the "outside, fresh eyes" of the commission were needed. The commission was paid $130,000.
Heffelfinger and Luger spent more than an hour walking through the 82-page report. They showed video and photos. Among the findings:
•Police generally reacted to violence professionally and with restraint.
•The city didn't prepare the public well for the potential violence and police reaction.
•Chemical irritants at times were used offensively when they should have been used in defense.
•There wasn't a properly staffed, centralized management team to communicate among the various agencies involved.
There were real threats of violence and actual property damage, Heffelfinger and Luger said. Thousands of peaceful protesters were able to express their opinions, but the media focus on "violent anarchists" eclipsed the peaceful messages, they said.
"Nobody was all correct, or all wrong," Luger said.
During the presentation, Heffelfinger and Luger were heckled and challenged by people in the audience. There was no public comment time, but Council Member Dave Thune said he will sponsor a public forum. He didn't specify a date.
Citing the panel's makeup, Brian Hokanson of Minneapolis, who worked with the anarchist organization the RNC Welcoming Committee, called the investigation illegal.
St. Paul police are investigating three internal-affairs complaints related to the RNC, he said. In addition, the department will finish an internal review of police actions by the end of January.
Saying he hadn't read the report, Police Chief John Harrington said, "On balance, nothing I heard today really shocked me. In general, my take on the RNC is it was a successful event."
Council President Kathy Lantry said she was impressed with the varied sources that the commission sought out. "Considering how much stuff they had to go through, [the report] seems really thorough," she said. "For some folks, it didn't matter what the report said, they weren't going to believe anything."
Chris Havens • 651-298-1542 Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551
ONLINE: The report is at www.stpaul.gov/RNCreport.