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Among the many law enforcement officers who maintained security during the recent Republican National Convention were three members of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department.
Officers Mike Anderson, Tony Palcisko and Ryan Alestock volunteered to work at the RNC in Cleveland.
"I wasn't into it for the political aspect," said Palcisko. "I was into it more for it being a big event coming to Cleveland. Obviously being from here I wanted to make sure everything went smooth and everyone was safe."
Alestock said he's not a "big politics guy" and he was interested in seeing the many police departments working together. "I heard about all the different agencies coming together and I wanted to see and be a part of that," he said. Alestock said he saw highway patrol officers from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Utah, California, Florida and Texas.
Palcisko said there were about 2,000 officers working during that time.
"When this deployment came up, I told these guys, 'This is a once-in-a-career opportunity,'" said Anderson, a 21-year veteran of the CFPD. "We've never had the RNC here since I've been here, and I just wanted to be part of it. When the chief said they were looking for volunteers, I said, 'I'm all in.'"
Anderson said he had a similar experience on a smaller scale when President George W. Bush made a campaign stop in Cuyahoga Falls in 2004 and there was a large security detail led by the U.S. Secret Service. He also was on duty when presidential candidate Mitt Romney stopped here in 2012. "That was pretty similar on a lot smaller scale," he said.
Anderson said he was among those stationed on rooftops and watched proceedings below, radioing information to officers below. "As soon as a crowd started to form in an area, they sent a group of us to be high-ground observers," he said. "So I moved from rooftop to rooftop getting a bird's-eye view."
"I watched protesters congregate and pass out signs," Anderson said, adding protesters were free to protest as long as no one got hurt and no property was damaged. However, he kept his eyes open to potential problems.
"I watched some of them pick up bricks and rocks and put them in their backpacks / mix things into spray bottles, put two different colors of shirts in their backpack so they could change their clothes," Anderson said. "I then relayed that information to the guys on the ground."
He said the officers on bikes, including Alestock and Palcisko, then rode in and immediately defused potential situations.
"In my opinion, the bikes were a huge part of the whole program being as safe as it was, because as soon as the protesters started to gather to cause problems / before the mobile field force guys with the shields and helmets could get there, the bike guys were already there, securing the area and isolating the troublemakers and de-escalating the situation before anything could occur."
Palcisko said the bikes served not only as a mode of transportation but also as a portable fence when an area had to be cordoned off. He and Alestock said they didn't arrest anyone, just worked in crowd control.
Alestock said everything went smoothly. "I would say 99 percent of the people there were very supportive of the police, especially with the bikes," he said. "Many came up to us and wanted to take our picture, shake our hand and thank us for coming to Cleveland. A lot of kids came up to us."
"It was a big confidence booster for me," said Palcisko, who's been a Falls police officer for three years. Alestock, who's been with the department 2 1/2 years, agreed.
Anderson said even the protesters expressed their appreciation for the police officers being there and keeping everyone safe. "That was very surprising, the acceptance of the police from everybody," he said.