Conyers officials offer Brazilian police advice for Olympics security

CONYERS — Brazil has turned to the city of Conyers for advice on how to handle security for the upcoming Olympic Games.

A 10-member delegation from the State Military Police of Rio de Janeiro visited Conyers and the Georgia International Horse Park Nov. 19 to learn more about the 1996 Olympics and what they can do to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games that will be held in Rio.

While in Georgia, the officers visited a number of different agencies, such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, among others.

In Conyers, the delegation heard from City Manager Tony Lucas, who was Conyers police chief during the 1996 Olympic Games; Chief Operating Officer David Spann, who was the equestrian venue manager at the horse park during the Games; and Police Chief Gene Wilson, who was chief of the MARTA police at the time.

Spann said that the Conyers officials specifically addressed the different types of security that were used during the Games, what worked and what didn’t work.

He said security during those 16 days of competition was headed up by the Conyers Police Department, but used a combination of law enforcement officers from across the metro Atlanta area – with some officers even coming from across the country to help – security supplied by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, military security and private security.

“We were the largest venue in size for the Games,” Spann said. “We ran more days than any other venue, with 16 of the 17 days for competition. We were second in attendance only to track and field. We were probably the busiest venue.”

He said security for the 1996 Games in Conyers required 125 law enforcement officers a day. To help out, 25 agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration were assigned to Conyers and were sworn in as Conyers Police Department officers so they had local arrest powers.

“We talked about how some of that didn’t work as well as hoped,” Spann said.

Specifically, he said, they discussed the importance of proper training and communications between the different groups, and knowing the best places to station the different security forces to ensure optimal safety. He said some of the private security wasn’t as well trained as they had hoped.

Spann said Conyers officials also discussed with the Brazilian delegation the challenges of working with the local Olympic organizing committee and making sure that all the promises made during the planning stages are kept.

“We told them of some of our challenges and how they need to remember they are responsible for the welfare of everyone who attends the games — the public, the horses, the athletes, the trainers,” he said.

Spann said Rio faces some different circumstances, including the expectation of a million people, massive traffic issues and higher crime rates.

“I think we gave them quite a few things to think about,” he said. “The World Cup next year is probably the best test event for the Olympics in 2016. They’ll have to provide security for multiple venues, hosting high-level athletes. There’s no better way to test the procedures they put in place then and it gives them time to redo anything that doesn’t work.”