Rosemount police officer in the thick of things during RNCRosemount's Brian Burkhalter helped control protesters in St. Paul
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
Rosemount Police Sergeant Brian Burkhalter will admit at times during the Republican National Convention things got tense. People were angry and throwing things and the police had to respond the best way they knew how.
“It was kind of overwhelming dealing with all the people,” said Burkhalter.
Despite the hairy moments Burkhalter said working at the RNC was a once in a lifetime opportunity that he would do again.
“It was fairly well organized and it was unique to work with officers from all over the country,” he said.
Thousands of people gathered in St. Paul the first week of September for the RNC. Some were there to rally their political party. While others were there to protest various issues including the war in Iraq.
For eight days Burkhalter was part of a mobile field force that tried to keep things peaceful as protesters and convention goers clashed. As a member of the Dakota County SWAT team, Burkhalter was assigned to work during the convention. He and other police officers from around Dakota County received more than 70 hours of training earlier this summer.
While for the most part things stayed pretty calm, Burkhalter said there were some hairy moments.
“When (people) started throwing stuff and damaging property that's when we got involved,” said Burkhalter. He said groups of anarchists usually caused the problems and would incite others to join them.
The goal of police during the convention Burkhalter said was to make sure the two groups —protesters and convention goers— could accomplish their goals without violence. While most of the protesters and convention goers did just that, a few did cause problems.
On the first day of the convention Burkhalter said he was on Kellogg Avenue during a protest that went sour. Protesters started throwing items such as bottles at police and so officers had to diffuse the situation. In the end Burkhalter said they ended up arresting 250 people.
“It got tense but I thought it was handled very well and I didn't see anyone abused or anything like that,” said Burkhalter.
That particular day was hot and dressed in the riot gear that police officers were issued made things worse.
“I lost five pounds that first day,” said Burkhalter.
On the last day Burkhalter was also involved with arresting protesters who were trying to march after their permit had expired.
Police have received some criticism for their actions during the RNC. Burkhalter said from his view police conducted themselves professionally and kept things from getting out of hand.
“On the television they show the after effects of what happened but they didn't show what happened to lead up to it,” said Burkhalter.
As for those who were arrested he said most were cooperative with police. He didn't share his political views during the interview but said as far as his position at the RNC he was just doing a job.
“I may agree or disagree with a political position but it didn't matter at the time,” said Burkhalter. “We were there to keep the peace.”
Being part of the RNC Burkhalter said was a unique opportunity in which he learned a lot. He said he especially enjoyed working with the bike and horse teams that assisted police that were on foot.
Additional officers from the Rosemount Police Department volunteered for the convention as well. Patrol officer Randy Trefethern said he and five other officers provided security for buses that transported delegates to and from the Xcel Center throughout the convention.
Trefethern said he volunteered for the RNC because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Although he didn't get to see all the action Burkhalter did, Trefethern said it was an enjoyable experience.
Rosemount police officers were paid for their service. The city of St. Paul will reimburse the city through a $50 million federal grant it received for RNC security.