How security from other colleges handled a GOP debate

Joseph Basco

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From the candidates’ arrivals to the protesters at the Green, UPD will be busy Jan. 26 providing security for the GOP debate.

UPD Chief John Dean said his department will borrow resources from the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office, such as a K-9 unit and a bomb squad. But, for security and safety reasons, Dean did not disclose specific security measures.

UNF is not the only university to host a republican debate in this election cycle. Since June 2011, college campuses such as Wofford College in South Carolina and Oakland University in Michigan have hosted GOP debates. One of them had more than just the campus police on hand to handle event security.

“I reached out to my county, city and state partners,” said Wofford College Campus Safety Director James Randall Hall. “All together I had about 53 state and local law enforcement officers helping me with security for the event.”

Wofford College, which hosted a CBS televised debate Nov. 12, is located in Spartanburg, S.C. The state’s Jan. 21 Republican primary election resulted in an upset win for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was one of eight candidates who participated in the Wofford-hosted debate.

Hall said the event went smoothly, and it was a pleasure to work with the candidates’ campaign crews. Even with a football game scheduled at the same time as the debate, the campus’ security operated pedestrian and vehicular traffic without a hitch.

“As soon as the [football audience] pulled out, the debate audience pulled in,” Hall said. “It was surreal how smooth it was.”

While Wofford security did not experience any incidents, Oakland University security had to contend with supporters of Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning candidate who has yet to earn a victory on the campaign trail.

“[Ron Paul supporters] were less than cooperative,” said Oakland University Police Captain Mark Gordon.

Gordon said the campus has a “freedom of information area,” much like the Green at UNF. He said security had trouble containing the supporters within this area.

“[The supporters] tried to make contact with Ron Paul himself as he approached a building, so we had a serious incident for just a few minutes with that,” Gordon said.

Oakland University, which is split between two cities, had the opportunity to receive support from two different city police departments. Police from both cities, in addition to Michigan state police, supported Oakland University police during the event.

Though Hall said Wofford did not have to pay overtime for any officers, Gordon said the event cost the university thousands of dollars in overtime pay for all the security personnel involved.

Both men said event festivities wound down at about midnight at their respective universities.

With all the commotion that will occur Jan. 26, UNF’s police department has a long night ahead of them.

“I was tired when it was over but I’m glad [Wofford College security] did it,” Hall said.