Two former federal prosecutors got the go-ahead from the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday to begin their investigation into security during the Republican National Convention.
Tom Heffelfinger, former U.S. attorney, and Andy Luger, former assistant U.S. attorney, laid out their plans for the review and answered questions from council members for more than an hour.
The men stressed their experience in prosecution and defense, their differing political views and their desire to be transparent. Above all, they said, they will be thorough and independent.
"Nobody will edit the report or get a sneak preview," Luger said.
Said Heffelfinger: "We represent all the people of St. Paul."
They have a Dec. 15 deadline to submit a report with findings and recommendations. They have a $100,000 contract with the city. The city has requested that the money come from the $50 million U.S. Department of Justice grant for convention security. The convention was held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center.
The review will focus on interaction between the community and police during the four days of the convention and the Saturday before, Heffelfinger said. "We've defined interaction broadly," he added. The purpose of that is to allow them to follow wherever evidence might lead.
The commission will:
• identify and analyze the public safety plan.
• examine how the plan was carried out, including the gathering of officers, training and equipment.
• evaluate how the plan was executed before and after the convention.
Investigators will look at events outside the Xcel Energy Center only.
Individual cases of alleged misconduct by police or citizens will not be included in the report.
Heffelfinger and Luger will lead the commission. So far, members are Barry Feld, a University of Minnesota law professor; Bob Hernz, a longtime former police chief in Golden Valley, and Mary Vukelich, a private investigator with federal law enforcement experience.
The council voted to require that an additional two community members from St. Paul be added. Heffelfinger and Luger, who noted the challenge of adding more people, will choose those members.
"It [the commission] needs a little better taste of St. Paul," said Council Member Dave Thune.
Investigators will review documents and video footage, interview people involved in the planning and execution of security efforts and seek input from the public, including protesters and journalists.
At least one public hearing will be held.
Council members questioned whether the timeline will be too tight. Heffelfinger said he had some concerns, but that he also sensed a "community clamor" for a review.
Luger is confident a good report can be produced. He said not just citizens, but also police involved in the convention, deserve answers.
Before introducing Heffelfinger and Luger, Mayor Chris Coleman said it was the city's duty to be introspective and ask tough questions about the event -- not just for citizens, but also for other cities that might host large events in the future.
Without giving details, Coleman said there had been a real and orchestrated threat to the city. He acknowledged the difficulty residents had seeing thousands of officers in riot gear, but he also said that, overall, the convention was successful.
Police have been accused of making unnecessary arrests, using excessive force and wantonly deploying crowd-control devices. Some people have expressed outrage over pre-convention raids.
More than 800 people were arrested in St. Paul and Minneapolis during the four-day event. The 818 arrests were less than half of the total made during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. But the Twin Cities arrests far outpaced the numbers recorded during the six other GOP and Democratic conventions held since 1996.
Chris Havens • 651-298-1542