Sunset Valley police receive diplomatic training for F1

The Sunset Valley Police Department is getting ready for Formula One.

Chief Sean Ford said the SVPD and other law enforcement entities received diplomatic and international police training in preparation for the 2012 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Nov. 18 at the Circuit of The Americas.

The Holiday Inn in Sunset Valley, located at 4892 W. Hwy. 290, has 200 rooms and will likely host several F1 guests, Ford said. Other hotels surrounding the city will also see a surge in business, and foreign dignitaries will be in the crowd, Ford said.

"We may have encounters with these individuals or they may be victims of crimes that we have to respond to," he said, noting diplomats will bring with them language barriers and other challenges. "Getting direction from the State Department is going to help us."

Department supervisors from Sunset Valley joined Travis County and Hays County law enforcement for training at Sheriff Greg Hamilton's office.

Roger Wade, a spokesman for the Travis County Sheriff's Office, said State Department representatives explained how to recognize different passports and diplomats' license plates, as well as how to get a hold of various embassies if a visitor has questions.

"We don't expect a lot of diplomats, but we do expect to see some folks from different countries around the world," he said.

The two educational sessions in October aimed to assist in local law enforcement's understanding of the diplomatic concerns officials might encounter during the U.S. Grand Prix as a result of the 300,000 visitors expected in Hays and Travis counties. SVPD representatives learned about issues including who has diplomatic immunity and when diplomats can and cannot be detained.

"Local law enforcement doesn't usually work with events like this, so they aren't going to be used to dealing with diplomats," Ford said. "I think it's extremely important for us to have an understanding of what we are required to do and what the law allows us to do [whether we are] dealing with them either as a suspect or as a victim."

The SVPD will not be hiring temporary employees or expanding its police force but instead will operate at maximum staffing levels, Ford said. The 21-person department will have a maximum staffing level of three to four people per shift during the U.S. Grand Prix, he said.