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Straub promises safe race

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub briefs the media about the Boston Marathon bombing Monday. (Colin Mulvany)
Spokane police Chief Frank Straub briefs the media about the Boston Marathon bombing Monday. (Colin Mulvany)

Top cop ‘cognizant of the large events to come’

Spokane police Chief Frank Straub made a bold promise Monday afternoon: Bloomsday will be safe.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, and the foiled plot to explode a bomb during the Martin Luther King Day parade in downtown Spokane two years ago, Straub sought to assure people that Bloomsday, Hoopfest and other major events would be secure.

“Terrorism threats are something I’m very familiar with,” he said. “This event has made it very clear the threat of terrorism, and the threats to large events, has not gone away.”

Police are “certainly cognizant of the large events to come,” Straub said. He noted that officers will be present along the Bloomsday route as well as at the start and finish lines, but he would not give any specifics about security.

“We will guarantee a safe event or events,” Straub said.

Former Mayor Mary Verner, who led the city at the time of the failed bomb plot in Spokane, was a speaker at the march targeted by a white supremacist.

“This belongs to all of us. Boston could have been Spokane at the 2011 march,” Verner posted on Facebook. “A backpack filled with shrapnel, to be detonated when the largest crowd passes. Prayers for Boston and all the people directly affected.”

The community will notice more police around high-traffic areas where people gather, such as malls, he said.

“The attack today in Boston, to me, is something very personal,” Straub said. His son attended college in Boston, and Straub was with him at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He’s also friends with Boston’s police commissioner, Edward Davis.

Spokane’s top cop said he has the experience to help keep the city’s residents safe.

Straub developed and implemented counterterrorism plans involving 42,000 officers and 12,000 civilians in New York. He also organized security for the Super Bowl in 2012 when it was played in Indianapolis.

The Boston bombing brought renewed attention to the close call of Jan. 17, 2011, when a backpack bomb, reported by parade spectators, was left along the MLK parade route. The civil rights march was rerouted and the bomb disabled.

White supremacist Kevin Harpham pleaded guilty, and a federal judge imprisoned him for 32 years. Straub expects to use the Boston Marathon’s bombing to fine-tune security for Spokane’s upcoming events. He said he’s receiving regular briefings about the Boston Marathon bombing from the regional Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes local and federal authorities.

Al Odenthal, a retired Spokane police deputy chief, is in charge of Bloomsday’s safety and security and said organizers will work closely with local and federal authorities.

Bloomsday – slated for May 5 – is expected to draw more than 53,000 participants for the 37th annual race.