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Rochester police play role when dignitaries visit Mayo

By Mike Klein

The Post-Bulletin

While he can’t reveal details, Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson said Monday that the visit of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani requires a a significant security commitment from the police department.

Talabani arrived Sunday for tests and treatment at Mayo Clinic, and he’s expected to stay in the city a few weeks. Security details have been quite visible near the Kahler Grand Hotel since Sunday evening, when his motorcade whisked through the blocked-off downtown traffic.

"We will certainly have a security involvement for the duration of his stay," Peterson said. "The level of that depends on his circumstances."

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The U.S. Secret Service has the primary responsibility for visiting heads of state and has taken the lead in Talabani’s security, Peterson said. Several other agencies are helping.

"Our interest is the public safety aspect of it," Peterson said. "That’s part of what is expected from the local agency. What your tax dollar pays for is public safety protection."

Rochester’s Mayo Clinic is a frequent destination for political leaders and celebrities seeking medical treatment. Recent visitors include former President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Peterson recalled that in 1997, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Hussein were both in Rochester at the same time. Hussein was being treated at Methodist Hospital, and Netanyahu flew in to visit him and jump-start peace talks.

"This is similar in some regard — there’s more of a global regard than what we’re used to," he said.

Security arrangements for visits of high-profile officials, such as a speech by a president or vice president, can cost the police department up to $20,000, Peterson said. He was unable to provide a cost estimate for Talabani’s visit at this time.

Generally, the police department must foot the bill for providing security to visiting dignitaries, he said.

Talabani’s office announced Sunday that he was heading to the United States for a medical checkup and to lose weight. There were conflicting reports about what prompted Talabani’s hospitalization in Jordan in February, according to CNN. A hospital source said doctors there performed a heart catheterization procedure. Talabani’s private doctor said he was suffering from exhaustion and lung inflammation.

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