Different Styles, Same Result

Policing the two Conventions


Chris Hankin

Philadelphia – Heavy rain throughout most of the afternoon kept protesters at bay during the final day of the Democratic National Convention. Though isolated incidences kept the police and media busy, the protests lacked critical mass to create the energy scene in days past.

The highlight of the day came at 7:00 PM near FDR park when activists scheduled a flag burning to protest Clinton’s nomination. Chants went up of “America was never great,” but the demonstration ultimately came to nothing as activists quickly dispersed.

The response from law enforcement was effective and proportional, managing to diffuse the situation without making any arrests or resorting to violence.

The Philadelphia police force has been exceptional all week. Their presence has been minimal and violence has been totally contained. Protesters have safely and freely expressed their political frustration, and arrests have only been made when absolutely necessary.

Melvin Singleton is an Inspector in the city of Philadelphia. He has spent most of the week monitoring activity in and around FDR park, and has been pleased with how well everything has gone.



“Our philosophy this week was to protect everyone’s rights to expression,” said Singleton. “All of our officers are aware that we are here to protect that, not to hinder it, and also to support it.”

This philosophy has been put to the test at some points, most notably on Tuesday during the Black Lives Matter protest which had a distinct focus on police brutality. Many chants during the march accused Philadelphia police of overt racism, and some included direct threats to police officers.

Inspector Singleton acknowledged that tension, but said it was just a part of the job.

“Tolerance and discipline, those are the keys from our point. If we can maintain that presence, we can work through any tense moment. Even though it did get tense, it didn’t get violent, and that’s all that is important.”

Prior to the convention, it seemed that the enormous tensions between police and the public around the country might be a defining  element of the Democratic convention. Fortunately, it wasn’t.  

What has been so interesting about the style of policing during the DNC has been its minimalist approach. Officers have tended to stay outside of the center of the chaos, acting more as overseers than anything else. This is in stark contrast to the strategy employed in Cleveland, where the police presence was far more intrusive.


The RNC employed officers from all over the country. I saw divisions from Florida, California, Indiana, and Georgia, as well as many other states. Officers were often equipped with military grade equipment and typically positioned themselves in more aggressive positions in monitoring protests.

It seems a stretch to equate this different style in policing to differences between the two parties. Having spoken with protesters at both conventions, I think it’s unfair to say that the divisions in the Republican party are more fundamental than the divisions among the Democrats.

However, the different approaches might have stemmed from the political rhetoric within the convention halls. Trump’s law and order message was directly reflected in the powerful and well equipped military style police force outside the arena doors. By that same token, the hopeful message of unity that has been projected in the Democratic convention seems to have played out in the woodstock-esque scenes in FDR park.  

Whatever the tactic, whatever the significance, I am grateful to the police for orchestrating two safe conventions.