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'A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'

More than a 20 south Washington County police officers will be among thousands of metro-area law enforcement officials helping provide security at next month's Republican National Convention in St. Paul. But don't worry, the area's top cops say, you'll still be covered here at home, too.

St. Paul public safety officials put out the call for help months ago and through joint-power agreements will have the assistance of some 3,500 officers when 45,000 visitors roll into town as part of the GOP's big event Sept. 1 to 4.

At varying times, Cottage Grove will have 13 of its officers, and both Newport and St. Paul Park will provide four of their nine full-time officers, who, due to shift schedules, are available to work at least a portion of the four-day national nominating convention. Cottage Grove director of public safety Craig Woolery says he's excited the city is able to lend a hand to St. Paul during the nearly weeklong crush of politicians, national media members and protesters.

"It's an opportunity that doesn't come along for a long time," he said last week. "It's a great opportunity for an officer to experience an event on such a big scale and be a part of history."

But in agreeing to help St. Paul manage the major task of keeping the capital city running smoothly during the convention, the three police forces haven't left themselves short staffed. The names St. Paul Park police chief Mike Monahan, Newport chief Veid Muiznieks and Cottage Grove's Woolery sent to St. Paul Police will work on their days off as volunteers, not, they said, in place of a shift at home.

And all officers that the cities contribute to convention security are subject to call back should the need for more officers in Cottage Grove, Newport or St. Paul Park arise.

"Our Cottage Grove staffing is our first priority," Woolery said. "If an officer's on their day off and they have adequate rest" before their next shift, then the officer can work in St. Paul. "It would be like you going into work on a Saturday."

Under the joint powers agreement suburban public safety officials signed, St. Paul will reimburse the cities time-and-a-half for each officer working during the convention. Woolery has been told Cottage Grove's officers will work "low-risk" areas -- meaning nowhere near the huge protests planned for downtown St. Paul near the convention venue -- like ensuring the thousands of Republican delegates move safely between their destinations. Muiznieks and Monahan said their officers haven't yet received assignments from the neighbor to the north.

But whatever his officers are tasked with, Muiznieks said, Newport's officers are looking forward to doing their part.

"You never lose focus of your task, no matter how mundane," he said. "If it's a matter of making sure automobiles do not enter a certain street, it's just one piece of the security of the whole conference and the safety of human beings and property. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Jon Avise can be reached at