Warning: Chicago Watchdog Groups Says City is Unprepared for Protestors Ahead of DNC

2016 DNC

On Thursday, Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report warning that the city and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are unprepared for the protestors who will descend on the city for the Democratic National Convention in August.

Chicago is hoping to avoid the bad optics of the 1968 DNC convention that saw then-Mayor Richard J. Daley ring the convention site with barbed wire and ultimately call in the National Guard to quell the violence.

Chicago is already facing a crisis with a major shortage of police officers.

At a public forum with the Commission for Public Safety and Accountability last week, Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling said, “What we’re doing right now is making the best with the number of officers that we have.”

Snelling added, “We are down. We’re down close to 2,000 officers.”

The OIG’s latest was a response to the recent “Chicago Police Department’s Preparedness for Mass Gatherings,” which was a critical review of the department’s botched response to the George Floyd protests and riots in 2020.

The new report warns that while there have been some improvements since 2020, major concerns remain.

Concerns following the 2020 violent riots suggest the CPD was “under-equipped and unprepared to respond to the scale of the protests and unrest in the downtown area.”

Further, OIG identified “failures within intelligence assessment, major event planning, field communication and operation, administrative systems, and, most significantly, from CPD’s senior leadership.”

OIG’s February 2021 report presented the following findings on specific CPD operational failures and shortcomings in response to the protests and unrest:

  1. Breakdowns in the mass arrest process resulted in CPD’s failure to arrest some offenders, the release of some arrestees without charges, and risks to officer and arrestee safety.
  2. During the events at issue, CPD did not fulfill its force reporting obligations and did not provide clear and consistent guidance to officers on reporting obligations.
  3. CPD’s operational response to the protests and unrest and gaps in its relevant policies crippled accountability processes from the start.

Further, “The Department identified the lack of planning documents, a shortage of necessary equipment, and inadequate notice of the cancellation of days off as areas for improvement. The Department committed to creating: plans that classify responses at different severity levels and protect retail corridors, revised Emergency Mobilization Plans, and associated practice exercises to ensure their smooth execution.”

The new report warns that new police crowd control tactics, however,  could cause “escalating tensions” and constitutional violations against lawful demonstrators.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The report says some of the city’s training materials related to crowd responses rely on old theories from the 1960s and 1990s that assume crowds have a tendency to affect individuals negatively and can lead to conflictual or criminal behavior. That belief — along with an assumption that bad actors are present — can risk “inducing or escalating” CPD’s response, the report said. More updated theories caution that police response can trigger people in the crowd to act more resistant and disorderly.

CPD’s guidance also “continues to permit the use of OC spray on passive resistors in a mass gathering setting,” she said, while other departments, like Philadelphia, “have very explicit guidance” that pepper spray “shall not be used” in a First Amendment gathering against “passive resistors.”

Department policy also lacks specifics about when the department can use corralling tactics sometimes known as kettling, Witzburg said. “Neither do they say that they are prohibited, nor do they offer guidance on when they might be permitted,” she said.

Radical pro-Hamas protestors have already promised to disrupt the gathering.