DENVER, Colo. -- Call it Cop and Awe.
Hundreds of heavily armed officers, some clad in riot gear or hanging off SUVs, are saturating Denver's streets in unprecedented numbers, quickly isolating any hint of trouble that could tarnish the city's reputation under the limelight of the Democratic National Convention.
The officers - on foot, horseback, bicycles and motorcycles - are armed with black batons and pepperball guns that resemble assault rifles. And they were quick to move Sunday when hundreds of rowdy protesters took to the streets of downtown, blocking some of the busiest streets.
"Right now, we're in the middle of a cop sandwich," said Sara Dutschke of Berkeley, Calif.
Denver police enlisted the help of 1,500 police officers from 52 law enforcement agencies, doubling the city's police force.
The number of reinforcements does not include the U.S. Secret Service, FBI or other federal and military agencies. Authorities are keeping those numbers secret.
Some observers said the burly police presence is unnecessary.
"It's overkill," said Sean Caddle, 30, of Denver, who watched the morning parade and snapped pictures.
"This isn't Chicago, and Hickenlooper isn't Daley," he said, referring to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
"There isn't going to be an incident," he added.
Police hope there won't be one either, but they've been preparing for a worst-case scenario.
The city, working under the guidance of the Secret Service, spent more than a year developing a security plan and training police.
"The main priority is compliance," said Denver police Chief Gerry Whitman.
"We want to give (the public) an opportunity to comply," he said.
Longtime Aurora police officer Craig Apple, dressed head to toe in black and armed with a pepperball gun, said people have been "inquisitive" about their armor.
"They shouldn't be intimidated unless they're doing something wrong," he said while marching through Civic Center with about 10 other gun-toting officers.
The heavy police presence is a "show of power," said Jane Guetz, 64, a tourist from San Diego.
"We went to the (Denver) Mint and saw two officers every few feet. That seems like a lot," she said.
Some, however, said the throngs of officers are warranted.
"I don't think it's too many considering what's going on here this week," said Guetz's sister-in-law, Laverne Guetz, 53.
"It adds a lot of excitement," said Guetz, whose twin 11-year- old boys were at her side. "It made me aware of the risk."
Lynn Zeno, of Houston, who is running a concession booth on Curtis Street for the week, said the large number of officers is "great."
"I feel safe," Zeno said. "I love that they're in large groups."
But Caddle, who called the heavy law enforcement presence overkill, said police run the risk of provoking an incident by putting so many cops on the street.
"It just takes one drunk guy," he said.