Chicago Unprepared For DNC Protesters, Warns Watchdog Group

Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a stark warning about the city’s readiness to handle protesters during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August. The report criticizes the city and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for their lack of preparation, drawing comparisons to the infamous 1968 DNC convention.

The city is already struggling with a severe shortage of police officers. During a recent forum with the Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling admitted, “What we’re doing right now is making the best with the number of officers that we have.” He further highlighted the shortage, stating, “We are down. We’re down close to 2,000 officers.”

This latest OIG report follows a critical review of the CPD’s response to the George Floyd protests and riots in 2020, which revealed significant inadequacies in the department’s approach to mass gatherings.

Despite some improvements since 2020, major concerns persist. The CPD was previously found to be “under-equipped and unprepared to respond to the scale of the protests and unrest in the downtown area.” The OIG cited failures in intelligence assessment, event planning, communication, and leadership during the 2020 riots.

The February 2021 report from the OIG identified several operational failures:

  • Mass arrest process breakdowns led to the failure to arrest some offenders, the release of arrestees without charges, and risks to officer and arrestee safety.
  • Inconsistent and unclear guidance on force reporting obligations.
  • Gaps in operational response and policies that compromised accountability from the beginning.

The new report cautions that recent updates to crowd control tactics could exacerbate tensions and lead to constitutional violations against lawful demonstrators. It criticizes the CPD’s reliance on outdated crowd behavior theories from the 1960s and 1990s, which suggest that crowds inherently cause negative behavior and conflict. This perspective can lead to an aggressive police response, potentially escalating resistance and disorder.
The report also notes that CPD’s guidance still permits the use of OC spray on passive resistors in mass gatherings, unlike other departments such as Philadelphia, which explicitly prohibit such measures. Additionally, CPD policy lacks clear guidelines on the use of corralling tactics, known as kettling.
As the DNC approaches, the OIG’s findings emphasize the critical need for the city to enhance its planning, equipment, and training to manage protests effectively and uphold constitutional rights.

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