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Cleveland • The first question Utah Highway Patrol troopers get while monitoring a few blocks about a half mile from the Republican National Convention is "Did you really come all the way from Utah?"
They sure did. A group of 27 made the trip to help with crowd control, part of a massive force roaming the streets, public parks and convention venues. The costs were to be paid from the National Republican Committee's security budget.
They're here in case protests get out of control and as a deterrent against any troublemakers foreign or domestic, but more than anything they've been fighting off constant praise.
"The hospitality has just been overwhelming," said Sgt. Steve Manful, talking about conventioneers and Ohioans thanking them for their service as they circle a three block area with officers from Montana, Louisiana and Wisconsin.
"We've been treated extremely well," said Sgt. Jay Nelson with the Montana Highway Patrol.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert stopped by Tuesday to add his voice to the chorus of accolades, spending a few minutes thanking the Utah contingent for helping to keep the convention secure.
"Particularly when you have so many statements being made by many out there that 'we are going to disrupt the convention, we are going to protest this, we are going to protest that,' " Herbert said. "I think having a show of force and having law-enforcement officers at every venue and on the street corners is helpful in stopping anything from happening."
The Ohio State Patrol and the Cleveland Police Department asked for help from 2,700 police officers throughout the nation. Many, like those from Utah, are there for crowd control. The deadly ambushes of police in Dallas, where five officers died, and Baton Rouge, La., where three were killed, has raised the tension in this convention city, keeping officers focused despite the steady stream of good wishes.
"It puts everyone on a heightened sense of awareness and we are just asking officers to watch out for each other and watch out for the public," Manful said.
On the first night of the convention, the biggest applause line came when Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke forcefully declared "Blue lives matter."
"I think that last night was spontaneous," Herbert said. "The public wanted to say 'You betcha, we really do care that blue lives matter and we really do care about you.'"
The protests in Cleveland have been peaceful, though in reaction to perceived tension between pro- and anti-Trump forces, hundreds of police officers flooded a public square midday Tuesday, an area outside of the Utah Highway Patrol's three-block area.
Well-wishers aside, Manful said the troopers will be ready to do the job they came here to do. "Our role is to be out, be visibly present and if something happens, respond."