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Benson Police helping at GOP convention

BENSON -- Members of the Benson Police Department will assist the St. Paul Police Department during the four-day Republican National Convention at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.

"We're happy to help our brothers and sisters in blue who need help," Benson Police Chief Jim Crace said. "We want to make sure that it's a safe event for everybody. Whether it be the delegates or protesters, we want to make sure that everybody is safe and the cops are safe, too, down there."

Crace said the department received a letter earlier this year from the St. Paul Police Department requesting assistance, but the Benson department "took a backseat."

"We decided we weren't going to go down there unless they really needed us," Crace said.

Crace said he later met St. Paul Police Chief John M. Harrington, who told him St. Paul still needed assistance. "So we put together a plan and got him some help," Crace said.

Crace could not reveal how many police officers from Benson would be sent due to "security reasons."

But this isn't the first time the department has been called upon by other agencies. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Crace said, the department sent officers to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for six to 12 months to provide security.

Similar to that instance, the city is only sending off-duty officers who are working overtime hours during the Monday through Thursday convention. Crace also said Benson residents will not see a change in service locally while officers are in St. Paul.

"We'll still have our 24/7 coverage and have the same amount of cops on the street as we normally do," Crace said. "It's just that the guys don't get as many days off, so to speak."

With the Republican National Convention, Benson will not pay for any expenses incurred during the police department's assistance. Crace said the St. Paul department will also reimburse the Benson Police department 100 percent from federal grant funds.

"We're just glad to step up in a time of need for another department," Crace said.