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‘Make no mistake, we are ready': Chicago PD tweaks mass arrest policy ahead of Democratic National Convention

Officers have received fresh de-escalation training, while about 3,000 officers are undergoing specialized training to “respond directly to civil unrest and the possibility of riots”

Kimberly Cheatle, Larry Snelling

Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling responds to a question as U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle, left, listens during a news conference about the upcoming Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

By Sophia Tareen
Associated Press

CHICAGO — Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling on Tuesday touted the nation’s second-largest police department as fully prepared to handle crowds of protesters expected during the Democratic National Convention, including new ways to handle possible mass arrests.

Law enforcement agencies have been planning for more than a year for the August convention that is expected to draw an estimated 50,000 visitors and massive protests.

“Make no mistake, we are ready,” Snelling said during a news conference alongside U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle.

Chicago police have received fresh de-escalation training, while about 3,000 officers are undergoing specialized training to “respond directly to civil unrest and the possibility of riots,” according to Snelling.

Proposed changes to the way police deal with mass arrests, which are still being finalized, include more supervisor review onsite and debriefings afterward to see what worked and what didn’t.

We can’t plan for everything. But with the right people, policies, training, and supervision in place we can best handle whatever may come our way during special events. Here’s some tips from Gordon Graham:

“Mass arrest is a last resort,” Snelling said. “But we know the realities of these types of situations, especially when the number of people we’re expecting to converge upon Chicago is inevitable that there is a possibility for vandalism. There is a possibility for violence, and we are prepared to deal with that.”

More than 50 organizations plan to protest in Chicago, which has denied permits for demonstrations near the United Center convention site. That has sparked lawsuits and groups vowing to march whether or not they have permits.

The department has been in the spotlight for its handling of large-scale events.

Chicago police generally received high marks for the handling of NATO protests in 2012, but they faced strong criticism for being unprepared in the aftermath of George Floyd’s 2020 killing in Minneapolis, when civil unrest broke out nationwide. Last week, the city’s Office of the Inspector General said the department has made progress, but it has work to do when it comes to large-scale events.

Snelling has dismissed the report as inaccurate.

Cheatle was expected to tour convention venues this week in Chicago and Milwaukee, which will host the Republican National Convention in July.

When asked if the guilty verdict delivered last week against former President Donald Trump presented additional security issues, she said there has not yet been an impact.

“Our focus is to ensure that we cover off on all potential challenges that we may face during this event and make sure we are fully prepared for it — and I do believe that we are,” she said.