CLEVELAND -- An officer's voice came over the police radio: "I have a group of people fighting -- one of them is dressed like a robot."
Another officer, in reference to a group of protesters on Wednesday night: "They’re playing duck-duck-goose in the park."
Such is the radio traffic this week during the Republican National Convention, where officers' voices on the publicly available radio broadcast convey the tension, monotony, and occasional humor involved in keeping Cleveland safe.
While the demonstrations have been calmer than expected, police have still been busy dealing with protesters. Some calls are routine, such as a trooper trying to track down his handcuffs used in the arrest of flag-burning protesters or a request to clean up police horse droppings in Cleveland’s Public Square. Others are scarier, such as a report Thursday afternoon that a man told an officer a member of the Heartless Felons, a local Cleveland gang, would shoot into a downtown crowd.
When rumors of a second flag-burning protest were broadcast on Thursday evening, one officer explained how they would protect the demonstrators.
“Isn’t an open flame not allowed in the event zone?” an officer asked.
“Not if it’s for the First Amendment, and flag burning is considered First Amendment,” the first officer replied.
When asked whether back-up was needed, an officer replied, "We got one guy with a flag and about 200 members of the media. We're good."
Numerous descriptions of suspicious activity were broadcast for police to investigate. Most involved black-clad anarchists or people with firearms taking advantage of Ohio’s open carry laws.
Still others turned out to be less concerning.
On Tuesday morning, police broadcast a report of a woman in a motorcycle helmet carrying a cinder block, a prohibited item in the downtown area during the convention. After investigating, an officer reported that a woman in black tights had been using half of a cinder block to exercise in a park.
Lindsay Blanton, founder and CEO of Broadcastify, an internet service that provides live feeds of police radio, said the company relies on individuals with scanners connected to their computers. The radio traffic is then transmitted online for anyone with a computer or smartphone to listen.
Cleveland police said all officers are connected to the shared radio network, including the two Cleveland Police helicopters.