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April 6, 2012

G-Whiz The G-8

Harry M. Covert

When a president visits a local community, it’s a big deal. Frederick County is no stranger to such visits from the present and to previous American presidents since World War II.


But, when seven other presidents and prime ministers join the entourage, the task is nothing short of the utmost challenge. Such an invasion hits the area in a few weeks and the preparation has been well underway.


In this case, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is the man charged with coordinating the major security operation. In cooperation with the U.S. Secret Service, Sheriff Jenkins and his commanders have been preparing for the May 18-19 Group of Eight (G-8) for some time. They are primed and ready.


“This event has the potential to bring many problems to us locally,” he said. “Frankly, with no hard intelligence, we don’t know what to expect. We have been planning for every potential problem scenario we can think of to include extremely large crowds, protestors, severe traffic congestion.”


On the practical side, it is anticipated that local businesses – hotels, restaurants, gas stations – will benefit from hordes of national and international reporters and photographers and the expected protestors. I hope they’ll be spending money as well as telling some good stories.


Personally, I’d like to be a fly on the wall with audio and video equipment running full blast. Obviously that won’t happen, but security provided by the Sheriff’s Office and the federal agencies will make certain everyone will be safe and sound.


Sheriff Jenkins and his agency have been providing security escorts and motorcades for years from Frederick Municipal Airport to Camp David and other locations in Frederick County.


“We actually have had a great working relationship with the U.S. Secret Service for many years,” the veteran sheriff said. “Our role generally is assisting with motorcades and in security support roles when the POTUS helicopters into Frederick Municipal Airport. (POTUS is abbreviation for (President of the United States). Our office has also played a part with perimeter security when President George H. W. Bush visited a local Frederick business several years ago.”


For the occasion of the G-8 event, all leave for sheriff’s deputies and commanders, is restricted for obvious reasons. There will be no slacking off. Everything spit and polish. The job, of course, is to show that everything is smooth and nothing out of the ordinary, and the lofty leaders of the world gabbing about solutions to economic challenges.


Such summits are challenges, too, for reporters. Sometimes, the big news or the big stories involve local people who just might run into a world leader.


A few years ago President Lyndon Johnson visited a Virginia shipbuilding company. News photographers and reporters were told they couldn’t get close to the leader of the free world. One enterprising reporter devised a plan to secure a telephoto lens camera on a long pole. His long pole, though, was the front-end of a rifle stock. He was tickled and bragged of his creation. The joy didn’t last long. Diligent Secret Service agents intercepted the carrying case, holding the photographer incognito until LBJ was gone and his standing confirmed by editors.


Opportunities will abound for good stories and video during the G-8 summit which President Obama moved from Chicago to Camp David.


Sheriff Jenkins has reassigned manpower and will be expanding patrol operations to deal with any potential problems.


“We are also committed to provide the necessary law enforcement support to the Town of Thurmont Police as needed,” he said. “The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has been designated the lead agency in both Law Enforcement Planning and overall planning for every division of county government. So far, the planning is going well, despite the unknowns.”


It’s obvious that preparation is the key for handling such serious international events.


“This event will most certainly put a strain on our agency resources,” Sheriff Jenkins said. “The fact that we – as a county – have been involved in law enforcement and emergency planning for over a decade should pay dividends in the event we see problems. Let’s hope we don’t.”


The G-8, officially The Group of Eight, represents eight of the world's largest economies. This year’s summit is obviously hosted by our president and includes such personages as Prime Ministers Stephen Harper, Canada; Mario Monti, Italy; Yoshihiko Noda, Japan; and David Cameron, United Kingdom; Angela Merkel, German Chancellor; and three presidents, Mr. Obama, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev. The European Union will be represented by Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.


Personally, I’d like to ride with the Sheriff and listen to the radio traffic.



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