Man hours, costs not yet calculated for Trump visit

Becky Campbell • Oct 2, 2018 at 11:00 PM

Due to concerns about officer safety and the integrity of the operation, there may be no way to tell the public just how many police officers were involved and how much it cost to protect President Donald Trump as he traveled from Tri-Cities Airport to Freedom Hall in Johnson City, but the number likely exceeded 200.

In five days, local law enforcement worked with the Secret Service to plan and execute a presidential visit to Johnson City on Monday. Trump visited Johnson City for a campaign rally and as a fundraiser for GOP Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.

Getting everything in order was no easy task, Johnson City Police Maj. Steve Smith said, but the hard work paid off because of the end result.

“I think when you look at the end results  — the president got here safely and got away safely and he was pretty much on schedule the whole way — it went well,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We did well getting him out. There were no arrests and no traffic accidents,” connected to the event.

Smith said it’s hard to say exactly how many local and regional officers were involved in the event, but “a good estimate would be 158 officers. That includes us and the other local law enforcement — Washington County, Jonesborough, Elizabethton, Carter County and Erwin. This thing was planned in a very short time span. We had some people who couldn’t come at the last minute, so that’s why we don’t have an exact number.”

According to Smith, if a city officer wasn’t on previously scheduled time off for things such as a vacation, then they were working on Monday.

“It was the whole police department,” he said. “If (they) were not on regular time off, (they) were involved in some capacity.” Day shift and night shift overlapped during the hours leading up to the event and after to ensure there was enough police coverage.

When the number of officers from other agencies are tallied, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Kingsport and Bristol police, Sullivan County sheriff’s deputies and the Secret Service — which was in charge of the whole operation — the number of officers would likely be well over 200.

Kingsport Police spokesman Tom Patton declined to reveal how many KPD officers assisted in the operation.

“The Kingsport Police Department has mutual aid agreements in place with neighboring jurisdictions for just this sort of event,” Patton said in an email. “In the interest of officer and public safety, we will not discuss a specific number of officers or their particular assignments; however, most were either traffic control or general security oriented in nature. For the most part, personnel who were already on duty the day of the President’s visit were utilized. We have not yet calculated a total cost estimate; however, while some overtime was involved, the expense is not likely to be overly significant, especially in light of the rarity of this type of event.”

Ahead of the motorcade, and separated by several minutes, were the KPD bomb squad truck, two Bristol, Tennessee, police cruisers, a JCPD vehicle and four THP motorcycle officers.

THP also assisted the Secret Service on Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 by blocking entrance ramps while the motorcade was passing by.

“The department had 10 troopers assigned to the President Trump visit,” Megan Buell, public information officer for the Department of Safety said. “The Interstate was shut down for 45 minutes. No overtime funds were used. These troopers were working a normal shift, and there were no traffic incidences during the President’s visit.”

Throughout the day, the Washington County/Johnson City EMS was also busy with the Trump rally.

EMS Chief Dan Wheeley said the agency covered the event with 11 personnel, one Mini-Med unit, one basic life support  ATV, two Advanced Life Support ambulances, three crew covering the floor, and one officer in the Secret Service security room.

EMS personnel worked a total of 123 man hours, treated 25 patients with transported two people to the hospital.

“This was a very busy day and the crews worked hard to take care of all the needs,” Wheeley said. “I had a lot of compliments from the Secret Service agents and White House staff.”

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