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Security Agencies Alter Strategies, Add Backup for Inauguration Week
The threats aren't limited to violence or terrorism: Freezing or rainy weather could send people fleeing for shelter or medical attention. The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is among the many agencies across the region gearing up for demands. And the crush of traffic will put additional pressure on police and transportation officials.
Security officials might get one big break: Compared with some previous inaugurations, there are no indications that large numbers of demonstrators are coming to Obama's swearing-in, authorities said.
D.C. and federal officials have provided varying estimates for the anticipated size of the crowd that will turn out for the inauguration of the nation's first African American president. Lately, they've settled on between 1.5 million and 3 million. Predicting the turnout is difficult because of such unknowns as the weather.
The inauguration isn't the only event testing planners. For the Obama welcome celebration on the 18th, Persichini said, "How many people will decide, 'You know what -- I'm going to drive up to Washington to be part of it'? Those are the things you really can't measure until that day."
To be prepared for the crowds, security officials are bringing in reinforcements from the military and federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies across the country.
D.C. police are planning to field 8,000 officers Jan. 20 -- 4,000 of their own and another 4,000 from other departments, one-quarter more than the force borrowed for President Bush's inauguration in 2005.
The Metro Transit Police Department will have "an all-hands-on-deck day," Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said, for its 423 sworn officers and 106 special security police to patrol the system's 86 stations and 106 miles of track. And Metro is asking other transit police departments from cities including Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta for help. "The idea is that they are familiar with the transit environment," Asato said.
The Park Police, which normally deploys about 600 officers at an inauguration, will have 1,000, including those on loan from other agencies, Lauro said. "We plan to cover every square inch of our jurisdiction," the chief said.
The military will provide 11,500 people, compared with about 7,000 for the last inauguration, officials said. About 5,000 will be involved in ceremonial activities, similar to the number in 2005. The rest will help with crowd control, communications, security, medical care, logistics, weapons detection and other needs, military officials said.
The Capitol Police are expanding their security perimeter around the iconic dome by a block or two because of the throngs expected to stream through the area headed for the Mall or parade route, officials said.
"We've had to staff up to ensure people are given clear directions on where to go" as they approach the Capitol area, Capitol Police Chief Phillip D. Morse said.
Unlike at the Mall, people going to the parade or ticketed areas near the Capitol will have to pass through strict screening. Last week, officials urged those with tickets to the 11:30 a.m. swearing-in to arrive no later than 9 a.m.