In less than ten months, leaders of the most powerful nations in the world will be heading for the G-8 world summit on Sea Island, Georgia. The event will put the Coastal Empire in the global spotlight, and police are getting ready for it now. WTOC met up with officers training at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
The US Attorney General's Office and the FBI are combining forces to make sure these officers are ready for what will be the greatest security challenge they've ever faced. Georgia law enforcement officers are trying to prevent the kind of protests that rocked Evian, France, from happening here.
"These are the people who are on the ground, who see things and hear things from folks who are out there who are suspicious or unusual in nature," noted US Attorney General Rick Thompson, Southern District of Georgia.
The event takes on an added danger since September 11. So the US Attorney General's Office is making sure police are ready, training them about sharing intelligence and controlling unruly crowds. The G-8 Summit is expected to have a huge impact, not only on Sea Island, but also in Savannah where the media center will be located and up to 100,000 protesters are expected to try to get their point across on camera.
Savannah knows something about crowds thanks to St. Patrick's Day, but police say it's nothing like this. "It's going to be a very large event, probably larger than anything we've done before," said Maj. Dan Reynolds of Savannah PD. "Nothing like St. Patrick's Day because we're not dealing with revelers, but with people protesting."
As hotels in Sea Island and Savannah book up, police in small towns, like Glennville, worry about the overflow. Chief Larry Stubbs of the police department there told us, "We're concerned they're going to be overflowing into the outlying areas. If that occurs, then it can be a daunting task for us."
US Attorney General Thompson agrees it is daunting. "This will be on a magnitude which far exceeds anything that any of us have ever seen in the Southern District of Georgia."
The US has not hosted the G-8 Summit since 1997 when it was held in Denver, but police in Georgia are promising to be ready when it comes to Sea Island next year. More than 150 law enforcement officers from across Georgia took part in today's seminar. The US Attorney General's Office says they'll be conducting training in the coming months. But the work for police has already started, as they're constantly watching for suspicious activity by protestors or would-be terrorists.